WESTMINSTER — A longtime county pediatrician said he felt like he had "a ton of bricks lifted off his shoulders" last week when a Carroll jury ruled hewas not negligent in his care of a baby boy who died at Carroll County General Hospital.
Dr. Karl Green, the first staff pediatrician at the hospital, said he is relieved that the trial is over, though he said it didn't disrupt his medical practice.
"My patients' parents stood by me," Green said, standing on the steps of the courthouse after the verdict was announced.
After deliberating for about three hours Thursday, the jury of eight men and four women also ruled that the hospital was not negligent in Brett Morris' death.
Robert Morgan, attorney for the hospital, said CCGH officials are pleased with the decision.
"Our sympathy has always been with the Morrises," he said. "But we maintained that this just wasn't anybody's fault."
The case came to Carroll Circuit Court after Green appealed the decision of a three-member Maryland Arbitration Board in Sykesville that found him negligent and awarded the baby's parents $550,000 in damages.
The arbitration board did not find the hospital liable.
The baby was born at Carroll County General at 10 a.m. Sept.
21, 1986. He weighed 8 pounds, 9 ounces, but had breathing problems.
The baby died 19 hours later.
The Morrises and their attorney, LaVonna Vice of Baltimore, said Green failed to give the baby enough oxygen, that he misread a chest X-ray and that he wrongly allowed the baby to be fed formula.
They said the cause of the baby's death was a pneumomediastynum, a condition in which air collects outside the lungs, causing pressure.
The parents also maintained that the nurses breached accepted standards of care by failing to alert Green when the baby took a turn for the worse at 11 p.m.
Green and his attorney, Michael Baxter of Baltimore, disputed the parents' claims and said the baby died of persistent fetal circulation, an often-fatal condition in which the baby cannot adjust to breathing outside the womb.
While Green and hospital officials lauded the jury's decision, the parents of Brett Morris expressed confusion and shock.
Barbara Morris said that before the civil trial began, she had had a great deal of confidence in a jury from Carroll.
That changedwhen the verdict was announced, she said.
"There is no way that after deliberating for only three hours that they could have looked atall of the evidence," Morris said. "Their decision leads you to believe that doctors and nurses in Carroll County can do anything they want."
Morris' lawyer said she shared that opinion.
"This case was not just for the Morrises. We wanted to send a message that the people of Carroll County were not going to settle for substandard care,"Vice said.
Vice and Barbara Morris said they felt the Carroll jury did not understand all of the technical aspects of the case.
5l Vice said she spoke with alternate jurors who were dismissed before the deliberations began.
A question was raised about whether the Morrises could really be so upset about Brett's death when he lived foronly 19 hours, Vice said.
She said the alternates told her that while they thought the doctor and hospital staff made mistakes in the case, those mistakes were not malicious.
Vice and the Morrises said they had not decided whether to appeal the decision.
AH Parents of boy who died 19 hours after birth in shock over jury verdict