(Please note: the names and locations of all parties have been changed to protect the confidentiality of the participants in this personal injury case and its proceedings.)
It is also worth noting that situations similar to those described in this medical malpractice case could just as easily occur at any of the healthcare facilities in the area, such as Kaiser Permanente, U.C. Davis Medical Center, Mercy, or Sutter.
THE SUPREME COURT REFUSED TO APPLY PERIODIC PAYMENTS BASED ON THE CONCEPT OF “LOST YEARS”
The Fein Court found that the periodic payments of Code of Civil Procedure section 667.7 applied to medical negligence actions and found the application of periodic payments to be mandatory. However, the Supreme Court refused to apply periodic payments to lost years. For more information you are welcome to contact Sacramento personal injury lawyer, Moseley Collins.
Although in general lost earnings are a type of future damage particularly suitable to a periodic payment judgment, this case presents a somewhat unusual situation because the damages awarded are solely attributable to the earnings of plaintiff’s lost years. If the trial court had ordered such damages paid periodically over the time period when the loss was expected to be incurred, the damages would have been paid in their entirety after plaintiff’s expected death, and thus-if the life expectancy predictions were accurate-plaintiff would not have received any of this element of damages. (Fein v. Permanente Medical Group, supra, 38 Cal.3d at 156.)
Therefore, it is clear from the language of Fein that the purpose of “lost years” damages is make sure that the plaintiff receives all of their lost future earnings in a lump sum during their lifetime. (Accord Schiembeck v. Haight (1992) 869 Cal.App.4th 869, 778.)
The defense of course was not without response to the “lost years” theory of damages. The defendant in Fein argued that the jury should have been instructed to deduct from plaintiff’s prospective gross earnings of the lost years, the saved cost of necessities that plaintiff would not incur[red] based on his diminished life expectancy. (Id. at 154 (citing Fleming, The Lost Years: A Problem in the Computation and Distribution of Damages (1962) 50 Cal.L.Rev. 598, 603 & fn. 23).)
However, while the court was willing to strike out boldly and find an area in which the periodic payment judgment statute would not apply, the court was unwilling to place any limitations upon the concept of lost years in spite of defendants’ arguments. The court expressly stated it would not consider the defendants’ arguments until a later time, based on the fact that defendants had presented no evidence in order to warrant an such instruction to the jury. (Fein, supra 38 Cal.3d at 154, 156-57.) See discussion below on the issue of California’s rejection of the saved costs of necessities in August 1999. (See Part 5 of 8.)
For more information you are welcome to contact Sacramento personal injury lawyer, Moseley Collins.