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Appeals Court Upholds Noneconomic Damages Cap by Lowering $6M California Medical Malpractice Verdict to $250K

December 31, 1969

The widow of a man who died as a result of California medical malpractice will receive $250,000 in noneconomic damages instead of the $6 million that she was awarded by a jury for her husband's wrongful death. The ruling, by the Court of Appeal of the State of California, 5th Appellate District, upholds California's $250,000 noneconomic damages cap. The court agreed that the cap, which the state's Supreme Court has deemed constitutional, doesn't violate a citizen's equal protection rights.

The plaintiff, Holly Stinnett, sued Dr. Tony Tam and Modesto Surgical Associates for her husband Stanley Stinnett's wrongful death. In 2006, several days after he was admitted to Memorial Medical Center of Modesto for treatment of his California motorcycle injuries, Stanley went to respiratory arrest and his stomach filled up with fluid before he then passed away.

Holly blames California medical negligence on Dr. Tam's part for her husband's passing. She contended that Stanley died from stomach aspiration because the surgeon failed to drain the fluid in his stomach.

Even though Tam denied Holly's allegations, the jury found the defendants negligent. They awarded her $6 million in noneconomic damages and over $1 million in economic damages. A trial court granted Tam's request that the awarded be lowered according to state law. Holly then appealed.

The damages cap falls under Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act. While the appeals court judges found the cap constitutional in 2009 after one of the lawsuits that challenged it, that ruling was never published. As a result, future complaints could not cite that decision as case law. This latest opinion, however, will be published.

California Medical Malpractice
Under state law, an adult victim of Anaheim, California medical malpractice or the family of the person who died from medical negligence has a year from the date of finding out a negligent act occurred--but not beyond three years from the date the injury occurred--to file a civil action. Because this type of case can be a complex one, the sooner you speak with a Los Angeles medical malpractice lawyer who can start investigating what happened, building your case, and pursuing financial recovery, the better.

Some examples of medical malpractice:

• Wrong diagnosis
• Delayed diagnosis
• Failure to obtain informed consent
• Surgical malpractice
• Poor pre-operative care
• Poor post-operative care
• Anesthesia errors
• Dental malpractice
• OB/GYN malpractice
• Birthing malpractice
• Medicine-related mistakes
• Nursing negligence
• Medical testing errors
• Failure to diagnose

Plaintiffs must prove that the medical professional or professionals did not meet the standard duty of care. In many cases, "expert witnesses," such as another doctor, may be required to prove that this negligence occurred. Victims and their loved ones will also have to show that this inadequate medical care resulted in injuries, illness, or death.

California's noneconomic damages cap upheld, AMEDNews, September 26, 2011

More Blog Posts:
Is it Time to Lift the California Medical Malpractice Caps?, California Injury Lawyers, January 22, 2011

California Wrongful Death Lawsuit Filed in Los Angeles Medical Malpractice Case Involving Lap-Band Patient Also Seeks Damages from Advertising Company, California Injury Lawyers, September 14, 2011

Los Angeles Plastic Surgery Malpractice?: California Sting Operation Shuts Down West Hollywood Clinic, California Injury Lawyers, August 16, 2011