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7 years after stroke, paralyzed woman awarded $35m

Defendants vow to fight judgment in childbirth stroke case

Andrea Larkin with her daughter, Alexa, in September 2010. Larkin suffered a stroke after giving birth to her daughter, and a jury on Wednesday awarded a $35.4 million to her in a medical malpractice case.
Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff/File
Andrea Larkin with her daughter, Alexa, in September 2010. Larkin suffered a stroke after giving birth to her daughter, and a jury on Wednesday awarded a $35.4 million to her in a medical malpractice case.

A jury in Dedham awarded $35.4 million Thursday to a Walpole woman who is paralyzed from a stroke that she suffered hours after she gave birth, her attorney said.

The verdict for Andrea Larkin, 35, was handed down in Norfolk Superior Court, said her lawyer, Benjamin Novotny of the Boston firm Lubin & Meyer.

The defendants were Dedham Medical Associates, where Larkin sought treatment for dizziness in 2004; and Dr. Jehane Johnston, a physician who examined Larkin, Novotny said.

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Neither Johnston nor an attorney listed for her could be reached for comment on Thursday night.

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In a statement, Dr. Michael Querner, Dedham Medical’s chief medical officer, said, “Our hearts go out to Andrea Larkin and her family. However, we respectfully disagree with the jury’s finding in this case and intend to pursue all available legal measures.”

According to Novotny, Larkin had dizzy spells in 2004 after running the Boston Marathon and went to be checked out by Johnston at the medical group’s Dedham location.

An MRI and a CAT scan showed brain abnormalities, which meant Johnston was required to place Larkin on a special list of patients with certain medical conditions that other doctors can access, he said.

However, Novotny said, Johnston failed to place Larkin’s name on the list. When Larkin became pregnant four years later, her obstetrician was not aware of her brain issues because her name did not appear in the database.

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Had that doctor known of Larkin’s problems, a caesarean section would have been ordered because it was dangerous for her to be in labor, according to Novotny.

Larkin delivered her daughter, Alexa, without having a caesarean section, Novotny said, and suffered a massive stroke within hours of the birth that left her completely paralyzed, except for movement in her right arm.

“She requires 24-hour care for pretty much everything,” Novotny said of his client, a former teacher at the Foxborough Regional Charter School. “She has difficulty with speech. She can’t work. It’s really sad.”

Her husband, Tim, 36, said in a phone interview Thursday night that he was shocked when the verdict was handed down. He praised the family’s legal team for their diligent work on the case.

Alexa is “a little ball of energy,” he said, and the couple “couldn’t ask for a better daughter.” But it pains him to see his wife interact with their child, because she has a limited ability to communicate.

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“Any time you see your wife, your best friend, have this happen to her, and given the person that she was before all this happened, and given [how] she wanted to be as a mother, in terms of playing a very active role in that capacity, it’s devastating to see,” Larkin said.

A family photo of Andrea Larkin and her husband, Tim, with Alexa.
Globe file
A family photo of Andrea Larkin and her husband, Tim, with Alexa.

He said his wife has therapy sessions twice a week, and family members occasionally take her out to run errands, but she is generally homebound and reliant on two caregivers to help her get through the day.

“We always remain hopeful” that her health will improve, Tim Larkin said. “But I think that given that we’re going on seven years into this, I think Andrea’s situation is likely the way it will be for the future moving forward. But that doesn’t preclude us from keeping those prayers alive.”

Johnston was licensed to practice medicine in Massachusetts in 1996, according to the state Board of Registration in Medicine. The board has never disciplined Johnston and has no record of any hospital or out-of-state panel issuing sanctions against her, records show.

Dedham Medical Associates was launched in 1937 and has locations in Dedham and Norwood, according to the company’s website.

The group offers internal medicine and pediatrics, with specialities including allergy and immunology, audiology, cardiology, dermatology, ears, nose and throat, endocrinology, and neurology, the website states.

The jury award with interest comes to just over $41 million, Novotny said, adding that the Larkins have been paying out-of-pocket for Andrea Larkin’s care, which has exceeded $200,000 annually.

Tim Larkin said Thursday that he hopes the jury award “can help bring some comfort to her moving forward to give her the best possible support that she needs.”

Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.