HOUSTON – A Texas appeals court recently affirmed a $2.7 million jury award in Harris County, mostly for the future medical expenses of a child injured during his birth in 2011, according to a recent ruling.

The Texas 1st District Court of Appeals affirmed the 2016 award by a 295th District Court jury in Harris County to Joseph and Dawn Leal on behalf of their son, A.L., who will be 7 in May, according to the appeals court's 19-page opinion issued March 1

Texas 1st District Court of Appeals Chief Justice Sherry Radack
Texas 1st District Court of Appeals Chief Justice Sherry Radack

The Leals filed a medical malpractice suit against obstetrician Christopher James Glenn and Northeast OB/GYN Associates, claiming Glenn had been negligent and their son was injured as result when he was born in May 2011, according to the opinion.

On appeal, Glenn's counsel argued that the 295th District Court was wrong when it denied motions for directed verdict and judgment notwithstanding the verdict, claiming that evidence presented at trial had been "legally insufficient," said the opinion written by Chief Justice Sherry Radack.

The three-judge appeals court panel disagreed. The doctor's counsel presented "no evidence of any applicable law or contractual agreement limiting the amount that the providers could charge for medical expenses incurred in the future, and the jury was asked to fairly and reasonably compensate for those expenses," Radack wrote. "To assume that the amount awarded is beyond the amount of future medical bills would be speculative."

Justice Laura Carter Higley and Justice Jane Bland concurred in the opinion.

The appeals court panel had to decide whether portions of Texas law applied to emergency medical care provided in an obstetrical unit when a patient had not first been evaluated in the emergency room, according to the opinion.

The Leals filed their medical malpractice suit after their son was injured during his birth May 26, 2011, at Kingwood Medical Center in Houston, according to the background portion of the opinion. Dawn Leal had been Glenn's patient during her pregnancy and a previous pregnancy and delivery in 2008, according to the opinion. Complications developed during the birth and the infant "suffered a permanent brachial plexus injury, which the Leals contend was due to Dr. Glenn’s pulling, twisting and turning of the baby’s head to hasten delivery," the opinion said.

During trial in June 2016, Glenn's counsel moved for a directed verdict, claiming that the evidence presented had been "legally insufficient" to prove "willful and wanton negligence required of an emergency health care provider," the opinion said. The court denied the motion and Glenn's counsel subsequently "objected to the jury question on negligence and future medical expenses," which also was overruled, the opinion said.

The jury found in favor of the Leals and awarded them a total of $2.7 million, including $300,000 for the child's future medical expenses until he reached 18 years and $900,000 for future medical expenses after age 18, according to the opinion. Glenn's counsel moved for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, arguing again that evidence presented during trial had been insufficient, according to the opinion. The trial court denied that motion as well and Glenn's appeal followed, according to the opinion.

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