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Jax Daily Record Monday, Dec. 10, 201805:20 AM EST

Court upholds $5 million malpractice verdict against Morgan & Morgan

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Plaintiffs’ attorney is seeking $1.6 million in fees and costs.
by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

A circuit judge in Sarasota ruled Monday that the verdict in a legal malpractice case against the Morgan & Morgan law firm should stand. 

The judge also denied Morgan & Morgan’s motion for a new trial and another motion to reduce the $5 million award determined by the jury.

Attorney Donald St. Denis of St. Denis & Davey in Jacksonville, who represented the plaintiffs in the malpractice lawsuit, said Friday he has a hearing scheduled Tuesday in Sarasota on a motion to award his firm $1.6 million in attorney’s fees and costs.

“We’ve been working on this for two years. I’ve got a ton of time in this case,” he said Friday.

St. Denis made offers on behalf of his clients in August 2016 and again in January 2017 for $2.5 million and $4 million, respectively, to settle the malpractice suit before going to trial, but Morgan & Morgan’s counteroffer was only $1,000, he said.

Morgan & Morgan intends to appeal the jury’s verdict.

John Morgan

“This case is a long way from over,” John Morgan said Friday in an email response. “We defended this case because we think we are right. And we will continue fighting it because we still believe we are right. We fully expect to win outright on appeal and have a judgment in our favor entered by the appellate courts.”

St. Denis represented Shawna and Rock Pollack in the malpractice action related to Morgan & Morgan’s handling of a personal injury case the couple filed after their child was permanently injured during birth.

On Oct. 17, a jury in circuit court in Sarasota County found that Morgan & Morgan attorney Armando Lauritano was 100 percent responsible for Shawna and Rock Pollock losing their rights to a medical malpractice claim against a Sarasota obstetrics practice, a nurse midwife and the hospital where their child was born.

The case began Nov. 2, 2006, when Shawna Pollock was admitted to Sarasota Memorial Hospital to give birth.

After she was given a hormone to induce labor, the unborn infant began to experience slowed fetal heartbeat and Pollock began writhing in pain.

By the time an emergency cesarean section was performed, Pollock’s uterus had ruptured, depriving the fetus of oxygen, which caused permanent brain damage.

After the birth, the Pollocks contacted Morgan & Morgan. An investigator from the firm met the couple at Ronald McDonald House, where they were staying while their infant son was in All Children’s Hospital in Tampa.

On Feb. 17, 2007, the Pollocks agreed to be represented by Morgan & Morgan. They agreed to pay the firm up to 40 percent of a recovery up to $1 million, 30 percent between $1 million and $2 million and 20 percent of recovery in excess of $2 million.

St. Denis argued to the jury that Morgan & Morgan was focused on collecting a large fee for the child’s brain injury claim to the point that its representative failed to provide the required presuit notice of claims for injuries sustained during the delivery by Shawna Pollock, including that she no longer is able to have children.

After it became clear that the baby would qualify for no-fault benefits from the Florida Birth-Related Neurological Injury Compensation Association, and after the statute of limitations period for submitting notice the Pollocks intended to seek compensation for their personal loss had expired, Morgan & Morgan withdrew from representing the Pollocks.

The jury found that the OB-GYN practice, the nurse midwife and Sarasota Memorial Hospital were negligent in the care of Shawna Pollock.

The medical practice and nurse midwife were found by the jury to be liable for $4.5 million in damages and the hospital was found liable for $500,000 in damages, if the Pollocks had not lost their rights to sue for damages.

In its $5 million verdict, the jury further found that Lauritano was negligent in his handling of the Pollocks’ interests, that the Pollacks did not freely and intentionally give up their right to seek compensation from the physicians and hospital and that Lauritano was liable for the loss they incurred.

 

 

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