$3.5 million awarded in death Woman died days after giving birth

December 09, 1992|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Staff Writer

An Anne Arundel County jury yesterday awarded $3.5 million to an Edgewater sheet metal worker whose first wife died in 1986 after giving birth to the couple's son at Anne Arundel Medical Center.

Richard S. Moy II was awarded damages after filing suit against two Annapolis obstetricians. He charged they misdiagnosed his wife Susan's condition before delivery, the cause of a seizure an hour after the Caesarean birth, and the ailment she suffered until she died six days later.

The jury of seven men and five women heard 11 days of testimony by physicians from all over the country, then deliberated nine hours before finding Drs. Kenneth Keys and Lawrence Prichep negligent in their care of Mrs. Moy, who was 22 when she died.

Mr. Moy, who sat still and expressionless throughout most of the trial, was choked with emotion yesterday as he tried to articulate his reaction to an award whose size stunned both the defendant's and plaintiff's attorneys.

"No amount of money will ever bring Susan back, or bring back what my son's lost, what I've lost, or what anyone who knew

Susan's lost. But I think it shows that God's true to his word," Mr. Moy said.

The 33-year-old estimator for a Prince George's sheet metal firm remarried five years ago and has a daughter with his second wife.

Jurors cleared of any wrongdoing a third doctor named as a defendant, Nicholas A. Capozzoli, a neurologist who treated Mrs. Moy after the seizure at Anne Arundel's intensive care unit.

Dr. Capozzoli, who sat with his wife throughout most of the trial, put his head in his hands and held it there for about 30 seconds when the verdict was announced. After the jury was dismissed, he hugged Mr. Moy, who had told him in the courthouse hallway moments before the verdict that he never wished him any harm. "I'm just glad that the people who weren't guilty in this were let go," Mr. Moy said.

Neither of the two doctors found negligent was in court yesterday, but their attorney said both were "devastated" by the case. He said it was the first such case against either of them in 15 years of practice.

"Young women are not supposed to die, especially after they deliver their first child," said attorney Scott Sonntag, "but while the medical evidence was overwhelming that Drs. Prichep and Keys had no control over the circumstances that led to the death, it's so difficult for a jury to turn away a child who loses its mother and a husband who's lost his wife."

The suit had also named both the hospital and S. David Krimins, a pulmonary specialist called in after the seizure, as defendants. Both were dismissed before the case went to the jury.

In their verdict, the jurors awarded $500,000 to Mr. Moy individually, $500,000 to him as a representative of his wife's estate and $2.5 million to his son, Richard S. Moy III.

Mr. Moy attorney had argued the two doctors erred when they missed evidence of pre-eclampsia, a hypertension disorder associated with pregnancy, and ruled out eclampsia as the cause for a grand mal seizure that occurred -- as Mr. Moy watched -- an hour after the birth.

MA Physicians testifying for the plaintiffs said Mrs. Moy's high

blood pressure, high protein levels in her urine and swelling and excessive weight gain all pointed to eclampsia. They said the doctors incorrectly diagnosed her problem as being a pulmonary embolism. The 86-pound woman gained 38 pounds during her pregnancy.

Because eclampsia was ruled out, they said, Mrs. Moy was over-hydrated with fluids while she was in the intensive-care unit, and that over-hydration contributed to her death.

"I believe this patient would have survived if the fluids had been properly regulated," Dr. Joel Palmer, a Prince George's County doctor, told jurors.

The defense presented evidence showing the two doctors specifically looked for eclampsia before and after the seizure and ruled it out because they didn't think the symptoms were there.

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