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Ingraham v. United States

United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
808 F.2d 1075 (5th Cir. 1987)


In February 1979, Dwight Ingraham (plaintiff) received back surgery from an Air Force surgeon. During Ingraham’s surgery, the surgeon negligently operated a drill, causing serious and permanent injuries to Ingraham’s spine. He sued the United States (defendant) under the Federal Torts Claim Act, and he was awarded $1,264,000. In March 1979, during her 43rd week of pregnancy, Jocelyn Bonds required a cesarean section. Because the Air Force physician performing the cesarean section mismanaged the surgery, Bonds’ daughter, Stephanie, suffered asphyxiation in utero, resulting in severe brain damage. The court awarded Stephanie Bonds $3,490,555.60 in damages and Jocelyn Bonds $750,000 in damages. Both Igraham’s and Bonds’ procedures were performed subsequent to the enactment of the Medical Liability and Insurance Improvement Act of Texas (Malpractice Act), which set the cap on medical malpractice damages awards to $500,000; however, the Government did not raise the Malpractice Act as an affirmative defense, nor did it raise the existence of the Malpractice Act at all until after the damages had been awarded in both cases. The Government’s post-trial motions for reconsideration requesting the court to reduce the awards in light of the Malpractice Act were denied in both cases, and the Government appealed.

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