Walkup Melodia Kelly & Schoenberger is pleased to announce that on Friday May 17, 2013, Conor M. Kelly obtained a $38.6 million verdict ($12.3 million present cash value) in San Francisco Superior Court on behalf of a disabled nineteen-year-old man who sustained incomplete tetraplegia as a result of the failure to diagnose and treat an evolving ischemic stroke.
On the evening of July 31, 2010, the plaintiff Kody Myrick was herding cattle on a ranch with his father, when he suddenly slumped over and had difficulty speaking. His father immediately drove him to the emergency room at Bakersfield Memorial Hospital (“BMH”), a Dignity Health facility in Bakersfield. Dignity Health is headquartered in San Francisco, and hence, venue was proper here.
Kody was triaged in the ER approximately one hour after the onset of his symptoms. The ER nurse noted a primary complaint of “possible stroke.” The emergency room physician examined him and found him suffering from profound neurologic deficits. The ER physician ordered a non-contrast brain CT scan, which showed a lacunar infarct in the left thalamus of indeterminate age. Despite this highly abnormal finding, the emergency room physician failed to obtain a neurology consult or activate the hospital’s stroke protocol.
Approximately 4 hours after the onset of symptoms, the ER physician called the on-call hospitalist, defendant Dr. Sahuphan Hansa, to admit Kody to the hospital. The phone call lasted less than 5 minutes. Despite clear indications that Kody was in the midst of a neurologic emergency, Defendant Hansa failed to obtain a neurology consultation, decided not to see the patient, and instead called in admission orders with a diagnosis of “possible stroke.” Kody was not seen by Dr. Hansa or any other physician for the rest of the night.
The next morning, Kody experienced a sudden deterioration in his neurologic condition. An MR angiogram was finally obtained in the afternoon and revealed an occlusion of the basilar artery. By the time the stroke was properly diagnosed, he had suffered significant permanent damage to his brain stem.
Plaintiff originally brought suit against multiple medical providers including the emergency room physician and the hospital. All of the defendants except Dr. Hansa settled prior to trial. The case proceeded to trial against Defendant Hansa, who was insured by The Doctor’s Company. His pre-trial offer of settlement was a cost waiver and waiver of any malicious prosecution claims. He defended the case on the basis that he did not know the patient was undergoing a stroke, and that since the patient was stable there was no need for an emergency neurology consultation. He also disputed causation, arguing that it would not have been possible to transfer the plaintiff to a hospital with the capability to treat plaintiff’s stroke even if the diagnosis had been made.
The jury returned a unanimous verdict on liability and causation and voted 11-1 on damages. The verdict was as follows:
Past Wage Loss: $66,000
Future Wage Loss: $2,686,000 ($1,115,000 present cash value)
Past Medical Expenses: $370,587
Past Attendant Care: $130,000
Future Life Care Costs: $33,112,000 ($8,426,000 present cash value)
Non-economic Damages: $2,250,000
TOTAL: $38,614,587 ($12,357,587 present cash value)
Approximately one year before trial, Plaintiff’s counsel served a §998 policy limits demand of $1 million on Defendant Hansa and the Doctors Company. Hon. James McBride presided over the trial.
This marks the Walkup firm’s 4th multi-million dollar verdict within the last 12 months.