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D.C. plaintiffs lawyer Barry Nace was not happy with the pool of potential jurors selected for his medical malpractice case. “I was dismayed initially when I saw what the panel was like,” says Nace of D.C.’s Paulson & Nace, noting that many of the potential jurors were well-educated and had family members in the medical profession. “You would have picked this jury if you were a defense attorney.” But after a five-day trial in August, this “defense” jury came back with what appears to be the largest jury verdict rendered in D.C. Superior Court this year — $50 million in compensatory damages against Georgetown University Hospital. Doctors at the hospital were accused of accidentally tearing the anal sphincter muscle of 24-year-old Ludmilla Clifton while delivering her baby in 1998. Clifton left the hospital unaware that she had been injured. Clifton, however, developed serious urgency when it came time for bowel movements, according to Nace. After a series of exams, Clifton was told that her sphincter was damaged and needed surgery to give her three to four minutes to get to a bathroom when she felt a bowel movement coming on, the complain alleges. In 2001, Nace filed suit on behalf of Clifton against Georgetown and several doctors, arguing negligence in failing to find and repair the muscle tear at the time of the injury. Lynda Schuler and Zoe Poulson of D.C.’s Williams & Connolly, who represented the hospital, argued that no one at the medical facility was aware that Clifton had been injured while under their care. Nace told the jury that Clifton’s life has been “fairly restricted” because of the injury. She has continued to have incidents in which she loses bowel control. He also claimed that his client was owed $11,500 — the cost of subsequent examinations and surgery. After six hours of deliberations, the jury returned its $50 million verdict. The defense filed post-trial motions asking the judge to throw out the huge award and requesting a new trial. Before Judge Mary Gooden Terrell could rule, the parties settled. Nace says the terms and the amount are confidential. Schuler and Poulson did not return calls seeking comment. “It’s a serious injury,” Nace says. “I was able to convey to the jury how serious it was.” The $50 million verdict — while large — was not the largest verdict ever awarded to a client of the 59-year-old Nace. In 1987, a jury in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia rendered a $95 million verdict in favor of Nace’s client and against the manufacturers of Bendectin — a drug used to treat morning sickness that Nace argued caused birth defects. That verdict, however, was subsequently thrown out by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

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