Hospital Asks Pa. Judge to Reduce $4 Million Malpractice Payment

April 13, 2006

A Pennsylvania judge was asked to determine whether a $4 million verdict in a birth malpractice case is too large because a hospital said it could go bankrupt if it is forced to pay the damages.

Attorneys for Trudy and Melvin Mayhue asked a Blair County judge to make a gynecologist and Tyrone Hospital submit financial affidavits to prove they can’t pay the verdict the couple won earlier this year in the malpractice trial stemming from their son’s 1995 birth.

Jacob Mayhue, now 10, suffers from cerebral palsy. A jury ruled that Dr. Roy R. Pazmino and the hospital were negligent because medical officials didn’t act quickly enough to deliver the boy by Caesarean section after he stopped breathing while his mother was in labor.

Attorneys for the hospital and Dr. Pazmino have asked Judge Hiram Carpenter to halve the damages, which now total $4.49 million including interest, so their combined insurance coverage can cover the debt.

But attorneys for the Mayhues said the verdict shouldn’t be slashed because the bulk of it, about $2.7 million, was awarded to pay for Jacob’s long-term care. They also argued that Pennsylvania Supreme Court rules don’t allow a judge to reduce a verdict to conform to insurance coverage.

The jury found Dr. Pazmino 80 percent responsible for the boy’s condition, and the hospital 20 percent responsible. But under Pennsylvania law, either party could end up paying whatever part of the verdict the other party cannot.

Tyrone Hospital attorneys have said that could leave the hospital on the hook for far more than the hospital’s insurance coverage and force the hospital into bankruptcy.

The Mayhues’ attorneys, Jerry Meyers and Paul Guiffre, on Monday asked the judge to give the doctor and hospital 10 days to submit financial affidavits. Both sides would then spend more than two months gathering evidence and arguing their positions before the judge makes a final decision.

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