Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.

U.S. Supreme court to decide medical malpractice victim's fate

While waiting for the outcome of medical malpractice cases, patients and family members may be facing medical bills in excess of $100,000. Because these individuals simply do not have the funds to pay such bills, they may apply for Medicare or Medicaid relief to help pay the bills. Such a scenario is now the subject of a United States Supreme Court case.

The United States Supreme Court is now deciding the fate of a young girl suffering from cerebral palsy that is deaf, blind and unable to walk, talk or crawl. A $2.8 million settlement awarded to this girl has had a lien placed upon it by Medicaid, and the Supreme Court is to decide whether such a lien is valid.

The girl's current physical condition is believed to have come about due to medical mistakes made by her treating physician at the time that she was born when the girl was delivered by Cesarean section. Prior to the medical malpractice case brought by her parents and their attorney, the state in which she lived apparently had paid a significant amount of money in Medicaid payments to take care of the girl - believed to be more than $1.9 million.

The state would now like to get that money back. Whether the state will prevail is dependent upon how the court interprets local state law and determines if this law is in conflict with any federal statute. State law apparently allows for such a lien, but the federal Medicaid law prohibits liens on a Medicaid patient's property.

The family may or may not have settled the lawsuit for this amount had they known a lien was about to be placed upon the award. In any case, the attorneys on both sides will now need to argue the validity of the lien.

We do need to keep in mind that whatever is left after this lawsuit is resolved probably would not be enough to cover all of the girl's expenses. Medical care, physical therapy round the clock care will probably cost millions. Also, the girl likely has unimaginably suffered because of medical malpractice that took place in the delivery room.

The question needs to be asked: who will pay for the girl's care once the money runs out?

Source: Charlotte Observer, "Supreme Court case involves medical malpractice awards, Medicaid," by Michael Doyle, Jan. 8, 2013

  • Our Pittsburgh's law firm website has more information regarding surgery errors, doctor errors, birth injuries and other acts of malpractice that are actionable.

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Pittsburgh, PA 15222

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