A Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision in December set a new precedent in medical malpractice litigation, expanding the claim of “negligent infliction of emotional distress” (known as the NIED claim) to include people who’ve been emotionally harmed but suffered no physical damage due to medical negligence.
In other words, people can have their day in court.
The highest court in the Commonwealth said that a doctor’s misinformation caused new mother Jeanelle Toney significant distress when she gave birth to a deformed baby boy, even though knowing about his condition during the pregnancy could never have saved her baby.
In 2005 Toney had a pelvic ultrasound at the Chester County Hospital near Philadelphia. She was in the late stages of a pregnancy with her son, and the radiologist, Maheep Goyal, M.D., told her the pregnancy was normal.
The mother gave birth to a boy with no arms below the elbows, no legs below the knees, and a deformed jaw, tongue, and penis, with an umbilical hernia.
She filed a suit against the radiologist, the hospital, and the University of Pennsylvania, which was immediately thrown out of trial court in its early stages because of lack of legal precedent. Toney appealed and the appellate court said she had a right to a suit.
The defendants appealed that decision to the Supreme Court, which narrowly affirmed the appellate court’s decision.
Now Toney’s case will go back to trial court, says attorney Mary Beth Davis, an associate at McCumber Daniels in Philadelphia.
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