Olsen (minor) v. Regents of University of California – $11M

Medical Malpractice & Elder Abuse

Case Summary:

Medical malpractice. Two-year-old Steven Olsen fell on a tree stump, a splinter of which penetrated his face and tattooed the maxillary sinus with debris. The wound was surgically treated. Ten days later he was readmitted to Childrens Hospital with a history of three to four days of increasing lethargy, frontal headache, fever as high as 103.7 degrees and the prior facial trauma. At Childrens Hospital, he was assessed by the chief resident for the Regents of the University of California who ordered the initial plan. The treatment plan did not include a CT Scan. He was followed in the hospital for 48 hours and was discharged and then readmitted 12 hours later in coma. Steven remains profoundly disabled. Jury awarded $11,285,965.00. General damages reduced to $250,000.00 by judge pursuant to MICRA.

Plaintiff’s Medical Expert Witnesses:
Betty Joan Maly, M.D.; Pediatric Physiatrist, La Jolla, CA
Brian Copeland, M.D.; Neurosurgeon, La Jolla, CA
Doreen Casuto, R.N.; Life Care Planner, San Diego, CA
Richard Jones, Ph.D.; Vocational Rehabilitation, San Diego, CA
Roberta Spoon, Economist, San Diego, CA
David J. Lang, M.D.; Infectious Diseases, Childrens Hospital, Orange County
O. Carter Snead III, M.D.; Pediatric Neurologist, Childrens Hospital – Los Angeles
Michael W. Cater, M.D.; Pediatrician, Santa Ana, CA Sara Frampton, Ph.D.; E

Defendant’s Medical Expert Witnesses:
Perry Lubens, M.D.; Pediatric neurology, Long Beach, CA
Rick Adams, M.D.; Rehabilitation, Long Beach, CA
Gene Bruno; Vocational rehabilitation; San Diego
Jan Roughan, R.N.; Life Care Planner, Pasadena, CA
Michael Willoughby; Economist, San Diego, CA
Matt Young, M.D.; Pediatrician, Sherman Oaks, CA

Defendant Insurance: State of California

Date, Time and Place of Incident(s): March 9, 1992, Childrens Hospital, San Diego

Facts and Background:

Two-year-old Steven Olsen fell on a tree stump, a portion of which penetrated his face and tattooed the maxillary sinus with debris. The wound was surgically treated. Ten days later he was readmitted to Childrens Hospital with a history of three to four days of increasing lethargy, frontal headache, fever as high as 103.7 degrees and the prior facial trauma. At Childrens Hospital, he was assessed by the chief resident for the Regents of the University of California who ordered the initial plan. The differential diagnosis included viral meningitis, partial treated meningitis and a brain abscess. The treatment plan included the administration of a lumbar puncture, IV antibiotics and steroids. The treatment plan did not include a CT Scan. He was followed in the hospital for 48 hours and was subsequently discharged and then readmitted 12 hours later in coma.

Plaintiff’s Contentions, Allegations:
Plaintiff contended that the original orders and plan as developed by the Regents physician was below the standard of care in that it failed to order a CT scan to rule out the brain abscess. Further the the administration of IV antibiotics and steroids for the treatment of the potential for meningitis had the effect of masking the symptoms of the brain abscess. Plaintiffs experts testified the standard of care required a CT scan be administered on March 9th to rule out the brain abscess. The plaintiffs experts further testified that had the brain abscess been timely diagnosed and appropriate treatment administered the plaintiff, to a reasonable medical probability, would have been free of deficit

Injuries and/or Damages: Blindness, severe brain damage, seizure disorder and behaviorial problems.

Defense:
The standard of care did not require a CT Scan. Further, the Regents were serving under the direction and supervision of the admitting attending physician.

Notes:
The jury determined that although the Regents physician was a chief resident she still was a medical doctor who had a responsibility to the patient independent of whatever her relationship was with the attending. The jury was impressed that given the emergent and catastrophic consequences of an undiagnosed brain abscess that once it is in the differential that it must be ruled out with a CT Scan. It was uncontroverted that the only way to conclusively rule out the brain abscess was by a CT Scan.

Specials:
PAST MEDICAL: $195,240 (out-of-pocket)
FUTURE MEDICAL: $ 3,167,824 (present value), $25,043,616 (future value)
PAST LOST EARNINGS: $0.00
FUTURE LOST EARNINGS: $ 922,901 (present value), $17,058,746 (future value)

Demand: $1,000,000 [from the Regents only]

Settlement Amounts: A prior settlement with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group is confidential in October of 1994

Verdict or Award:
Economic damages: $4,285,965; Non-economic damages: $7,000,000.00. Jury found the Regents of the University of California 25% negligent and Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group, 75% negligent.

Other Verdict Details:
$7,000,000 of general damages reduced by the judge pursuant to MICRA to $250,000

Length of Trial: Three weeks

Jury: Deliberated six hours.

Jury Polled: 10-2 on liability and 12-0 on damages.

Attorney for Client: Michael D. Padilla

Attorney for Defendant: Clyde Lockwood, Esq., Patterson, Ritner, Lockwood, Zanghi & Gartner

Civil Trial Lawyers

619-236-9363
800-577-2922