Last Thursday afternoon a jury in Contra Costa County returned a verdict in the case of Brian C (a minor) vs. Contra Costa County Health Services, a medical malpractice case concerning negligent management of a twin pregnancy which resulted in the death of one twin and severe brain injury of the other. The jury determined that the surviving twin would likely live another 74 years, would never be employable, and would need extensive future medical care for the rest of his life for a total future damage award of $111,700,000.
After five years of litigation, and a two month trial, plaintiff’s counsel Eustace de Saint Phalle and Michael Gatto presented evidence that the defendant doctor engaged in a pattern of tampering with the medical records and providing false testimony.
Plaintiff argued that the subject pregnancy was managed by a family practitioner and not an OB/GYN or perinatologist specialist.
Plaintiff asserted that the doctor did not understand the risk factors, was unqualified to handle high risk twin pregnancies, and continued the pregnancy too long which resulted in the tragic outcome. Plaintiff further argued that defendant Contra Costa County Health Services had no rules or procedures in place to make sure patients were referred to the appropriate specialists.
The County claimed that its doctors were not negligent in the management of the subject pregnancy.
“It took a lot of hard work and time to educate ourselves on the medicine and figure out what was going on, but eventually we were able to figure out that the doctor had altered the medical records after she learned of the death of one of the twins,” explained Michael Gatto. Under cross-examination, Mr. Gatto was able to effectively demonstrate that Dr. Madrigal changed the medical records after the fact, and gave false deposition testimony in an attempt to blame her patient, the mother.
“This case was about what kind of medical care system twelve jurors, citizens of Contra Costa, felt should be provided by their County. A system where there is no oversight and an unqualified doctor who does not know what she does not know can blindly handle a patient that is beyond her knowledge and skill level, or one where there are proper policies and procedures in place so other women and children in this County are not injured like this family. Ultimately, the jury agreed that the medical system in this County should be one where doctors act safely for both the child and mother,” said Mr. de Saint Phalle.
Brian C’s family has struggled to give him proper care and education. While they will never feel like any amount of money can replace the loss that has occurred, the family does appreciate the fact that they were given the opportunity to be heard in court, and that a jury showed compassion when determining that justice required their child be provided the medical care and services that will allow him to achieve the highest level of function even with the limitations of his brain injury.
“Our biggest fear was that we wouldn’t be able to provide for Brian’s needs as far as doctors and school, and take care of him once he grows up. He may never be normal, but I do believe he will have a much better quality of life with the resources that the jury has provided. The money is going into a special trust just for Brian, and it will be managed and used to make sure he continues to receive medical care, and can reach his maximum potential and have a reasonable quality of life,” said Liza Servin, Brian’s guardian.
“I cannot thank Mr. Gatto and Mr. de Saint Phalle enough for all the hard work that they have done, all of their own the money they have invested in the case, and the faith and trust that they had in our family. I do not see how any attorney could have done a better job of figuring out and ultimately proving how Dr. Madrigal lied in the case and showing that she had altered the medical records,” Ms. Servin explained.
On September 18, 2014, a jury in Contra Costa County returned a verdict holding doctors and Contra Costa Health Services legally responsible for the death of one twin and injuries to Brian C. The jury awarded future payments for medical and attendant care of $100,000,000 and future earnings loss of $11,700,000. The jury determined that the present value of all damages totaled $12,132,780.82.
People injured in California as a result of medical negligence do not receive equal treatment under the law as they would in any other type of tort case nor in other states due to MICRA. MICRA is a set of laws passed to protect doctors in 1974 which places unfair limits on injured people. As a result, the money damage awarded for general damages is reduced to $250,000 regardless of what a jury thinks. In this matter, it is anticipated that by law, the judge will be required to reduce the general damage award of $500,000 to only $250,000. In some cases, after a reduction for attorneys’ fees and costs, a plaintiff may not have enough money to cover the costs of all medical care or lost earnings.
Plaintiff’s Attorneys Eustace de Saint Phalle, Michael E. Gatto and Alison M. Karp are all members of the Personal Injury trial team at Rains Lucia Stern. For any questions, please contact Rains Lucia Stern, PC at 925.609.1699.