Damages Limited In Plaintiff’s San Jose Medical Malpractice Action, Part 2 of 7

The following blog entry is written from a defendant’s position as trial approaches. Reviewing this kind of briefing should help potential plaintiffs and clients better understand how parties present such issues to the court.

(Please note: the names and locations of all parties have been changed to protect the confidentiality of the participants in this medical malpractice/personal injury case and its proceedings.)

[I]t is evident from the terms of the statute that while each injured plaintiff is entitled to seek noneconomic damages, the maximum recovery permitted in any single medical malpractice action is $250,000 … (Yates, supra, 194 Cal.App.3d 195 at 200, italics in opinion.) [Yates was a wrongful death action based on medical malpractice involving six plaintiffs: the widow and five adult children of decedent. Each claimed they sustained injury as a result of the death.]
In upholding the damage cap against plaintiffs’ constitutional challenge, the Yates court relied on the Supreme Court’s prior rulings in Fein v. Permanente Medical Group (1985) 38 Cal.3 137, 158 and American Bank & Trust Co. v. Community Hospital (1984) 36 Cal.3d 359, 368-369.

Plaintiff’s contention that section 3333.2 unconstitutionally abridges the right to a jury trial (Cal.Const., art. I, § 16) is but an indirect attack upon the Legislature’s power to place a cap on damages.

While it is clear section 3333.2 will in some cases result in the recovery of a lower judgment than would have been obtained before the enactment of the statute, it is well established that the Legislature retains broad control over the measure, as well as the timing, of damages that a defendant is obligated to pay and a plaintiff is entitled to receive, and that [it] may expand or limit recoverable damages so long as its action is rationally related to a legitimate state interest … (italics in original).

Here, plaintiff filed one action for medical malpractice. He is proceeding to trial against four physicians arising from gallbladder surgery performed on June 16, 2006. Plaintiff alleges that negligence by general surgeon, defendant Owen Green, M.D. in performing that surgery resulted in a lacerated iliac vein and necessitated subsequent multiple repair/exploration procedures involving Drs. Smith, Lee, and Stuart. On June 24, 2006, plaintiff suffered a massive abdominal bleed which was subsequently attributed to an aortic puncture. (See Part 3 of 7.)

For more information you are welcome to contact personal injury lawyer, Moseley Collins.

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