November 22, 2011

A young California girl who was 13 when a California radiologist negligently misread her x-ray that ultimately led to a serious medical condition resulting in the girl’s paraplegia recently won her medical malpractice case.

The 13-year-old girl was hospitalized in 2003 when she was experiencing back pain as well as a loss of sensation in her legs. An MRI was performed of her spine and was read by the radiologist as normal when the images actually showed an abnormality (a mass on her spine). Her doctors diagnosed her as suffering from Guillain-Bare Syndrome (a serious disorder that occurs when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks part of the nervous system) and treated her accordingly. However, she continued to have weakness in her legs.

The young girl awoke on February 1, 2008, unable to move her legs and with pain in her lower back, after which she was hospitalized again. An MRI conducted during her 2008 hospitalization showed a large bleeding growth on her spine in the same spot where the previous abnormality was noted in the 2003 MRI. She had surgery to remove the growth but sustained a permanent spinal cord injury, resulting in her paraplegia. As such, she has no feeling or muscle control below her waist.

The jury that heard her medical malpractice claim in 2011 regarding the first radiologist’s negligent failure to properly read the MRI images in 2003 valued her loss at $6.4 million to compensate her for her anticipated lost wages, medical expenses, and future necessary care. The jury awarded $1.2 million for her life-long pain and suffering, which will be reduced to $250,000 under California’s cap (limit) for noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases.


Is there anyone, anywhere, who honestly believes that $250,000 is fair and adequate compensation for a 13-year-old’s noneconomic losses who will live the rest of her shortened life in a wheelchair due to the medical malpractice committed by a radiologist who the jury found to have been negligent and whose negligence was found by the jury to have caused the young girl’s paraplegia?

If an unbiased jury chosen from the local community determined after hearing all of the lay and expert testimony at trial and having reviewed all of the trial exhibits and having observed the demeanor of the trial witnesses determined that the permanently injured young girl should receive $1.2 million for her noneconomic damages, doesn’t the automatic reduction to California’s statutory cap on noneconomic damages in the amount of $250,000 violate the girl’s constitutionally guaranteed right to have a jury decide all aspects of her medical malpractice claim?

Why should the negligent radiologist get the benefit of a cap on noneconomic damages when the cap unfairly limits the young girl’s right to receive fair and adequate compensation for her life-long, serious losses?

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