State's high court to hear case of miscarriage after car crash

May 06, 2002|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore woman who suffered a miscarriage after a car crash is going to Maryland's highest court today to argue that though she's not entitled to ask for damages for a lost life, she should be able to be compensated for a lost body part.

The case could result in women who suffer injuries that lead to miscarriage being compensated for the loss of a fetus in the early stages of pregnancy.

Since 1995, Maryland law has barred wrongful death claims for the loss of a fetus before it is viable.

"You can't have a situation where you injure a woman and cause her to suffer a miscarriage, and then there is no cause of action. It just feels wrong," said Dwayne A. Brown, a lawyer representing the Baltimore woman.

But the lawyer for the insurance company of the woman on the other end of the car crash says there are many circumstances that allow a woman to recover damages for the loss of a fetus - but that this case is not one of them.

"Somewhere the law has to cull claims for which people can't recover, as opposed to being able to recover for anything and everything," lawyer Alan R. Siciliano said.

The case before the Court of Appeals stems from a traffic accident near the Inner Harbor. Stacey Smith, a Red Cross phlebotomist, was driving her car on East Pratt Street on Jan. 10, 2000, when, she testified, her car was struck by a light truck driven by Diana Borello, then of Westwood, N.J.

A day after the crash, Smith had a miscarriage, ending her 19-week pregnancy.

Jurors hearing Smith's civil lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Baltimore were not allowed to consider her distress over the miscarriage or lost work time from the sadness, nor were they allowed to see the photographs of the stillborn fetus, court records show. The judge ruled that she was in effect seeking wrongful death damages for the loss of the fetus, which is not allowed under state law.

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