California Supreme Court Upholds Medical Malpractice Award

In a recent Supreme Court of California decision, Rashidi v. Moser, 339 P. 3d 344, the court had before it a medical malpractice case involving three separate defendants:  a doctor, a hospital, and a medical product manufacturer.

According to the complaint, the plaintiff underwent surgery following a severe nosebleed. During the operation, his nasal artery was injected with molecules designed to block the bloodflow. However, when the plaintiff awoke, he was completely blind in one eye. Apparently, the molecules were so small that they had apparently floated into the incorrect area, causing the side effect.

The plaintiff sued the operating doctor and hospital for medical malpractice and related claims, and he sued the manufacturer of the particles for various products liability causes of action. The company settled with the plaintiff for $2 million, and the hospital settled for $350,000.

At trial, the doctor did not present any evidence of the other two defendants’ alleged wrongdoing, and the jury found that the operating doctor’s negligence resulted in the plaintiff’s injury and awarded him $125,000 for future medical expenses, $331,250 for past noneconomic damages, and $993,750 for future noneconomic damages. The court then reduced the noneconomic damages to $250,000, conforming to a California state law, MICRA, which sets that as a maximum in medical malpractice cases.

The doctor argued that he was entitled to offsets for the other alleged tortfeasor’s actions. The trial court disagreed. However, the Court of Appeals found that an offset was required and ruled accordingly.

On appeal to the Supreme Court of California, the court focused on the implications of the function and limitations of MICRA’s limit of noneconomic damages at $250,000. It concluded that the intent of the law was clearly to place a limitation on capricious jury award amounts, and not for settlements. It found that the maximum award amount encouraged parties to settle and provided the basis for comparison should a case go to trial.

Therefore, it reversed the Court of Appeal’s judgment regarding the reduction of the award of noneconomic damages below $250,000, and it affirmed the rest of its opinion.

The primary purpose of most personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits is to recoup the financial burdens that are placed on victims.  Medical bills – from doctor’s visits to hospital stays – can be crippling and can quickly become more than victims can afford.  Also, many accidents result in the victim being unable to work for a period of time.  Settlements can mitigate the rising costs of medical bills and loss of wages.  In the case of a wrongful death, the loss of the earning potential of the deceased is factored into many settlements as well. Contact us today for a free consultation. We can be reached through this website, or by calling (866) 422-7222.

More Blog Posts:

California Court of Appeals Upholds Decision in Respondeat Superior Car Accident Case, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, published May 12, 2015

California Court of Appeals Enters Decision on Car Accident Case Anti-SLAPP Motion, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, published May 7, 2015

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