Plaintiff in this case was a ten-year-old boy who was born with heart problems. Because of some minor difficulties, he went in to a hospital in the central valley of California for the third heart surgery of his young life. During the surgery, his heart stopped working. He was put on a breathing machine and transported to UCLA Medical Center. For four days, he waited at UCLA Medical Center for a heart transplant.
Amazingly, on the fourth day, his heart spontaneously began to work a little bit. The doctors at UCLA were then able to save plaintiff’s life by performing an open heart surgery. When they opened him up for the surgery, they discovered that the doctors in Fresno had put in two graphs which were so small that they did not allow blood to properly flow from plaintiff’s heart, and thus his heart had shut down.
Once the doctors at UCLA replaced the wrong graphs with the correct sized graphs, plaintiff’s heart made a full recovery. Unfortunately, during the four days in which plaintiff could not breathe on his own, he developed what is known as “compartment syndrome;” that is, because of the lack of oxygen and blood flow from his heart, the muscles and tissues in plaintiff’s legs began to die. Seven surgeries later, plaintiff was able to walk, but only for one block and his legs had shrunk in diameter more than half. The plaintiff will never be able to run again, stand for any significant period of time or walk long distances.
By the time the plaintiff’s family retained the law offices of Winer, McKenna & Burritt, LLP, three other law firms had turned down the case, believing that it would be too hard to win. The law offices of Winer, McKenna & Burritt, LLP, felt a terrible injustice had been done to this young boy and decided to take on the case.
The first challenge for the law form was to find a pediatric cardiac surgeon to testify against the surgeons. There are only 400 pediatric cardiac surgeons in the entire United States and they all interact with each other at seminars and conventions. After an exhaustive search in which dozens of experts were contacted, the firm finally found a doctor whose sense of justice outweighed what is frequently called the “conspiracy of silence” in the medical community.
Once plaintiff was able to establish liability, there remained the problem of proving damages. In medical malpractice cases in California, damage awards for pain, suffering and emotional distress are limited to $250,000. The defense in this case claimed that even if plaintiff were able to establish fault, his damages would be limited to $250,000 since there was no economic loss because his surgeries were paid for by insurance and there would be thousands of white collar jobs available to him when he became working age.
By retaining a psychologist to test the plaintiff’s intelligence and a vocational expert to test his vocational abilities, the law firm was able to establish that plaintiff was unlikely to complete college and earn as much as a white collar worker as he would have been able to earn as blue collar tradesman. The differential would result in a $500,000 economic loss.
The law firm was able to arrange for a structured settlement for plaintiff; i.e., a settlement in which is paid money over time which will eventually pay out millions of dollars.
RESULT: Settlement on behalf of plaintiff with a present cash value of $750,000