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High court favors North Carolina family in malpractice case

The United States Supreme Court finally made its opinion known in a case we've previously discussed on this blog. The justices heard the case of a North Carolina family contesting the state's claim to one-third of their medical malpractice settlement received as the result of their daughter's brain injury sustained during her birth 13 years ago.

The girl's family argued that it was unfair for state law to dictate that a third of the malpractice rewards given to all Medicaid recipients would be recovered by the state. This law was intended to serve as a reimbursement to the aid program; however, the court ruled that the law dictated a seemingly arbitrary amount of money was being taken from malpractice victims.

On balance, the ruling does not strictly forbid states from upholding laws that require some amount of money to be recovered in malpractice cases involving Medicaid recipients. The ruling just prevents setting a specific percentage being included in the law. Justice Anthony Kennedy said there was nothing to prevent state laws from designating a much larger percentage to be garnished.

One of the primary problems associated with Medicaid reimbursement laws is that they can do harm to the families that rely the support provided by a malpractice award. Not only are families receiving Medicaid already dealing with limited financial means, but they are also likely to have long-term medical bills as the result of the medical accident. This case shows how critical it may be for those impacted by malpractice-related brain injuries to ensure they seek enough compensation to cover all of their needs.

Source: McClatchy News, "Supreme Court trims N.C. share of disabled child's malpractice settlement," Michael Doyle, March 20, 2013

  • Our firm has experience helping North Carolina families deal with the effects of a brain injury. To find out more, please see our Raleigh medical malpractice page.

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