Stroke Following Childbirth Brings Largest Verdict in Massachusetts: $35.4M

2015 Medical Malpractice Trial Report

Larkin v. Johnston: 28-year-old woman suffers hemorrhagic stroke hours after vaginal delivery of her daughter

The plaintiff is now a 35-year-old woman who is completely paralyzed but for the use of her right arm. She is wheelchair bound and requires 24/7 care.

In 2004, the plaintiff sought care from her primary care physician, Dr. Johnston, regarding ongoing dizziness. She underwent an MRI and CTA, both of which showed abnormalities in her brain. Specifically, the imaging studies revealed a large venous varix on the left side of her brain and an aneurysm on the right. This information was communicated to Dr. Johnston on more than one occasion, but Dr. Johnston never discussed the clinical significance of these findings with her patient, nor did she place these abnormalities on the plaintiff’s “Problem List,” as required by the Dedham Medical Associate’s (DMA) Policy and Procedure.

In 2005, the plaintiff sought ongoing care from her primary care physician, Dr. Johnston, regarding her ongoing dizziness, but also in order to facilitate a referral for repeat MRI and CTA. Once again, the imaging studies revealed a large venous varix and an aneurysm. This information was communicated to Dr. Johnston on more than one occasion, but Dr. Johnston never placed the brain abnormalities on the plaintiff’s “Problem List,” violating the DMA Policy and Procedure.

In 2006, the plaintiff was due for a repeat imagining study, but Dr. Johnston failed to order and/or refer the patient for the testing. After October 2006, the patient did not return to Dr. Johnston’s office.

In November 2007, the plaintiff became pregnant. She received her prenatal care through an OB/GYN group at DMA. According to the records, the OB/GYN care providers regularly checked the plaintiff’s “Problem List,” but due to Dr. Johnston’s failures, were not alerted as to the presence of the plaintiff’s brain abnormalities. Consequently, the plaintiff was allowed to labor and deliver her daughter vaginally on June 8, 2008.

Due to the physical stress of the second stage of labor, on top of the hypercoagulable state of pregnancy, the venous varix was subjected to increased intracranial pressure, which caused a clot to form. As a result, the plaintiff ultimately suffered a severe hemorrhagic stroke, required a craniotomy and temporal lobectomy, and lost function in all of her extremities except for her right arm. Following the birth of her daughter, the plaintiff spent a total of 18 months in hospitals and rehabilitation programs.

After approximately 4 hours of deliberations, jury returned a verdict of $35,400,000.00 (without interest) against Dr. Johnston and DMA.

Lubin & Meyer attorneys Benjamin Novotny and Karen Zahka represented the plaintiff in this medical malpractice lawsuit.

See also: Local news coverage of this case including a video with Attorney Ben Novotny: $35.4M Verdict in Childbirth Stroke Lawsuit


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