PHILADELPHIA - A Philadelphia court recently awarded $3.9 million to the family of a woman who died in 2009 during a botched abortion performed by a man who was later convicted of killing three infants born alive during other abortions.
Judge Jacqueline Allen in October ordered Kermit B. Gosnell, a former physician now serving life in prison, and his organization, the Women’s Medical Society, to pay $3.9 million in damages after the estate of Karna Maya Mongar brought a medical malpractice suit against him.
Yashoda Devi Gurung, administrator of Mongar's estate, brought the suit in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas in 2011. Mongar died Nov. 19, 2009, at age 41 during an abortion procedure carried out by Gosnell and the staff of the Women’s Medical Society.
In May 2013, Gosnell was sentenced to two-and-a-half to five years on an involuntary manslaughter charge for Mongar’s death. He has also been convicted of first-degree murder in the deaths of the three infants and has no possibility of parole.
According to a statement provided by the plaintiff, Mongar went to the Women’s Medical Society for a dilation and evacuation abortion procedure. Staff members who did not have medical certifications gave Mongar pain medication throughout the day, the plaintiff alleged.
She was also given three doses of a cocktail of meperidine, promethazine, and diazepam in a five-hour period, the suit says.
Just after the dilation and evacuation was completed, emergency medical services were called due to Mongar’s low pulse and decreased respiration. A padlocked emergency exit prevented emergency responders from wheeling her out of the building. Police removed the padlock with bolt cutters.
Mongar arrived at the hospital and was put on life support, but was pronounced dead hours later.
The estate sought to recover $654,774 for loss of household services as well as damages under the Wrongful Death and Survival Acts.
“They often will calculate a number for compensatory damages, basically, what was the loss,” said B. Jessie Hill, Law Professor at Case Western Law School. “It sounds kind of crude, but were they losing her services?”
Mongar was survived by a husband, three children and a grandchild. The award for loss of household services is calculated based on life expectancy.
“We have to have some way of figuring out a number that’s reasonable and not just based on emotion,” Hill said.
The estate was awarded $650,000 for personal injury and wrongful death. For punitive damages, the estate was awarded $3.25 million.
“Technically, legally, malpractice is malpractice. Wrongful death is wrongful death,” Hill said.
But abortion is a hot-button issue and the criminal case drew national attention - “The jury is going to be influenced by that,” Hill said.
“These sorts of cases are not that common. The size of the verdict is quite large.”
Gosnell did not have malpractice insurance, so the estate will seek payment through Gosnell’s assets for the total settlement of $3.9 million.
According to the case's docket, no appeal was filed after the judgment.