Successful Recoveries For Kaiser Patients: Cases & Results
California Kaiser Attorneys Medical Malpractice Cases & Results
The medical malpractice specialists at the Walkup law firm have more than 50 years’ experience in handling cases against Kaiser. Our Kaiser personal injury specialists actually teach other lawyers throughout the state of California how to effectively prosecute cases against Kaiser. Our track record includes successful recoveries against Kaiser in many different types of cases including, birth injuries, wrongful death, obstetrical mistakes, emergency room errors, brain injuries from misdiagnoses and flawed surgeries, paralysis, pediatric and children’s injuries, heart attacks, cancer misdiagnosis, and other medication errors. In order to have some understanding of the breadth of our experience, some of the results and are successful cases are set forth below:
- Wrongful Death
- Birth Injuries
- Cancer Misdiagnosis
- Heart Attacks/Disease
- Brain Injuries
- Emergency Room Errors
- Child Injuries
- Kidney Function
$2,400,000 Arbitration Verdict – Death Resulting from Advice Nurse error
The Walkup arbitration team obtained a $2,400,000 arbitration award after a one-week long trial in Alameda California on behalf of the husband and two surviving children of a 42-year-old mental health professional who died from overwhelming infection. Before her death, the decedent had made three calls to the Northern California advice nurse center, but she was misdiagnosed over the phone, and when she finally spoke to a doctor, he incorrectly diagnosed her with the flu without ever seen her. Our lawyers demonstrated that the Kaiser advice nurse system included a host of flaws that prevented doctors from learning the information which advice nurses obtain over the phone. Kaiser representatives admitted in sworn testimony that doctors were not given information about the history provided by patients. There was no settlement offer before the arbitration because Kaiser claimed that its advice nurse system was without any flaws or problems. susceptible to infection.
Multimillion-dollar confidential settlement – Failure to Diagnose Infection
Walkup attorneys prosecuted arbitration on behalf of the surviving children of a 34-year old male who went to the emergency room at Kaiser Oakland complaining of flu-like symptoms, fever, pain, and weakness so pervasive that he had difficulty walking from his car to the urgent care center. On arrival, a nurse, rather than a doctor, evaluated the patient. The nurse incorrectly determined that he was not in need of medical care and discharged him home without treatment. The next day the patient returned to the emergency room again, with worsening pain and weakness and a new symptom: unusual spotting on his fingers. He was again sent home with orders to report to the clinic that afternoon. When he returned as ordered, the doctor who saw him gave no significance to the odd spots and attributed all of the patient’s complaints to a viral illness. The member was discovered dead two days later. An autopsy demonstrated that he had been suffering from overwhelming sepsis, which should have been treated sooner with immediate medical attention and IV antibiotics. Walkup attorneys demonstrate that the Kaiser personnel who saw the decedent had breached the standard of care and caused economic loss to the surviving children, aged 9 and 8.
Death of Husband – Major Multi-Million Dollar Confidential Wrongful Death Settlement
Our Kaiser wrongful death specialists brought a Kaiser Permanente Arbitration claim on behalf of the surviving husband and two adult children of a 58-year-old Permanente member who died from an untreated pulmonary embolism. The deceased Kaiser member had visited a South Bay Kaiser Emergency room complaining of chest pain and shortness of breath. A blood test was elevated. After a referral from the emergency department to the cardiology department, a Permanente Group cardiologist performed a left heart catheterization that ruled out coronary artery disease but failed to perform the right heart catheterization which would have shown a potentially fatal pulmonary embolism. As a result, the patient’s pulmonary embolism was not diagnosed. Blood-thinning medications would have prevented death but were not given. She died leaving her husband and children unsupported.
Emergency Room Negligence – Failure to Diagnose Epiglottis – Death
Walkup attorneys obtained a settlement in a Kaiser Arbitration proceeding for the wrongful death of a man who suffered a hypoxic brain injury and died following a misdiagnosis at Kaiser Vallejo’s Emergency Room. The man arrived at the Kaiser emergency department complaining of a high fever, severe sore throat and difficulty swallowing and breathing. These symptoms suggested the possibility of supraglottis, a serious inflammation of the upper airway. However, despite the clear symptoms that the man represented a medical emergency, Kaiser’s emergency room triage nurse told the man his case was not severe enough for the Emergency Room and sent the man to an Urgent Care Clinic, where his condition worsened and eventually caused respiratory arrest. Despite resuscitation attempts, the man suffered severe hypoxic brain damage and died three days later. Walkup attorneys negotiated the maximum settlement available by law on behalf of the two surviving children left behind.
Fatal Failure to Diagnose Pulmonary Embolus – Wrongful Death
Walkup attorneys obtained a confidential settlement on behalf of the siblings of a 49-year-old man who died as a result of an undiagnosed and untreated pulmonary embolism at Kaiser South San Francisco. The man had previously suffered a pulmonary embolism and informed Kaiser of the history of pulmonary embolism when he reported to the emergency department at Kaiser South Francisco. In addition, he presented with a heart rate of 120 and elevated pulse rate, shortness of breath and chest pain. Kaiser diagnosed asthmatic bronchitis despite the fact that the man had no history of asthma. He was given albuterol and no testing for pulmonary embolism was done. Walkup attorneys successfully argued that the man’s history of acute pulmonary embolism in conjunction with the man’s symptoms necessitated a differential diagnosis of pulmonary embolism.
Failure To Diagnose Bladder Cancer – Wrongful Death
Walkup’s Kaiser Malpractice attorneys negotiated a settlement in excess of $1,300,000 on behalf of a widow and two surviving children of a man who over a period of more than two years, was repeatedly misdiagnosed with urinary tract infections instead of cancer.
The man reported to his primary care Kaiser physician complaining of frequent, painful, and bloody urination. Although his symptoms suggested the possibility of bladder cancer, however, his Kaiser physician was convinced the problem was related to aging and an enlarged prostate. Kaiser sent the man home with medications to help with the patient’s symptoms. Over the next two years, he repeatedly returned to Kaiser with no improvement in his bladder condition. Kaiser was given repeated opportunities to diagnose and begin treating the man’s bladder cancer, which was developing at a rapid rate. By the time doctors finally diagnosed the man’s bladder cancer it was in stage IV and had already metastasized to his other organs. The settlement was reached prior to mediation and consisted of both an annuity and lump sum cash payment.
Colon Perforation/Sepsis During Cholecystectomy – Death
A settlement in the maximum amount permitted for general damages was obtained for the heirs of a 77-year-old woman, following a routine laparoscopic cholecystectomy at Kaiser Walnut Creek. The decedent underwent laparoscopic cholecystectomy in order to relieve abdominal pain resulting from gallstones. She was sent home following the procedure, only to return to the emergency department two days later, complaining of severe abdominal pain, inability to eat, and inability to walk due to pain. Upon admittance to the ER, the decedent had no measurable blood pressure and was immediately started on IV fluids. A Kaiser surgeon examined the decedent, found an acute abdomen, indicating the need for immediate surgery, but instead the decedent was sent for a CT scan. When she was finally taken to surgery, an exploratory laparotomy disclosed that she had a rent in her bowel where the initial surgery was performed. Ultimately, four total exploratory laparotomies were performed before it was discovered that the decedent had a leaking cystic duct proximal to the place where the clips were placed during the laparoscopic cholecystectomy. She underwent two additional exploratory laparotomies, where bowel perforations were found. Decedent died in the hospital due to an abscess in her heart. Due to the original failure of the doctor who performed the laparoscopic cholecystectomy to discover the rents in decedent’s bowel and cystic leaks caused by slippage of the clips, the 77-year-old decedent was subjected to numerous surgeries, each of which rendered her increasingly
Fatal Administration of Antithrombolytic Agent – Wrongful Death
Walkup’s Kaiser team obtained a settlement of $350,000 for the wrongful death of a woman who died due to the administration of a drug contrary to Kaiser policies and protocols. At age fifty the deceased suffered a minor heart attack and was sent to the Kaiser Santa Clara emergency room. Two hours after her episode she was acting normally and barely felt any pain. Despite this, the on-call doctor, a kidney specialist, decided to administer the antithrombotic agent tPA (tissue plasminogen activator), a blood clot dissolver used to prevent permanent heart damage immediately following a severe heart attack. According to FDA labeling and Kaiser’s own guidelines and policies for its administration, tPA must be administered within four hours of the onset of symptoms and should only be used to treat an acute heart attack. Bleeding, including intracranial bleeding, is a well-known and dangerous side effect of the drug. The house doctor, without informing the patient about the time parameters for administration of the drug, administered the drug over six hours after her symptoms began. This drug therapy caused a massive fatal cerebral hemorrhage.
Failure to Diagnose Tuberculosis – Wrongful Death
The Kaiser Malpractice attorneys at Walkup negotiated a $500,000 settlement on behalf of the husband and children of a fifty-four-year-old woman who died as a result of undiagnosed and untreated tuberculosis at Kaiser Vallejo. Three months before her death the woman had previously been hospitalized with a diagnosis of pneumonia, at which time she provided a history of developing pulmonary symptoms over the previous six weeks. While hospitalized, she was not responsive to antibiotics typically used in treating pneumonia. A pulmonologist concluded that changes in her lungs were secondary to her Crohn’s disease. even though it had been in remission for twenty years. She was discharged. Two months later she was re-hospitalized for worsening pulmonary complaints. During this hospitalization, she was diagnosed with active tuberculosis. Despite specific treatment, she died. Our attorneys successfully argued that if the tuberculosis had been diagnosed originally, she would have had a better than 50% chance of cure.
Failure To Do Genetic Counseling-Multiple Catastrophic Injuries
Our Kaiser genetic injury lawyers negotiated a multimillion-dollar confidential settlement on behalf of the parents of a disabled child who was born with severe congenital disabilities. The claim was based upon a failure to properly follow up on prenatal diagnostic testing. Under California law, in this circumstance, parents are permitted to bring a claim for the extraordinary costs of raising a disabled child, including the cost of special in-home care, equipment, therapy, special schooling, etc. The child was unable to walk or provide for her own needs. By utilizing a special needs trust in conjunction with structured annuities and a cash payment managed by a professional trustee, our team was able to assist the parents in maintaining their daughters right to receive public benefits while creating a sufficient stream of income to guarantee that she received optimal care throughout her lifetime.
Failure to Perform Timely Cesarean Section Cerebral Palsy
In a case involving cerebral palsy, our attorneys obtained a binding arbitration award, following a two-week arbitration, having a present cash value of $4,100,000 on behalf of a 3-year-old boy afflicted with multiple neurological injuries as a result of negligent delivery at the Kaiser Foundation Hospital in Redwood City. Attorneys from Walkup, Melodia were able to prove that the infant endured a period of oxygen deprivation during his birth when his mother’s uterus ruptured. The uterine rupture was due to an attending midwife’s failure to properly manage the mother while in labor. Walkup attorneys also proved that obstetrical nurses left the mother unattended prior to the rupture of her uterus, and for that reason failed to appreciate ominous signs of the baby’s distress as reported on a fetal heart monitor. Prior to the first day of arbitration, Kaiser had made no settlement offer.
Failure to Recognize Fetal Distress – Quadriplegia/Brain Damage
Walkup attorneys negotiated a cash and annuity settlement with a present cash value in excess of five million dollars on behalf of an infant born with severe developmental delay, spastic quadriparesis, and permanent neurological injuries after Kaiser San Francisco doctors and nursing staff failed to monitor the mother and deliver the baby quickly when fetal heart monitors indicated severe distress. The 36-year-old mother’s pregnancy and delivery seemed to be progressing normally when, 8 hours after being admitted to the hospital, she developed a high fever. The doctor on call administered antibiotics for suspected chorioamnionitis, (an inflammation of the amniotic membranes), and said he would check back in an hour. Nearly three hours later, the fetal heart rate monitors indicated that the baby’s heart rate had dropped to 85 and 90, and remained there for about 10 minutes, prompting a frightened nurse to contact the doctor. Deceleration of the fetal heart rate is a common effect of chorioamnionitis. The infant was born a half-hour later, by emergent vacuum extraction, with no heart rate, and appearing blue, floppy, and apneic. She was resuscitated through chest compressions and intubation. In the days following her birth, the infant exhibited general seizures with tremors in the lower and upper extremities. An MRI performed 8 days after her birth revealed that the infant had severe hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy. The child will remain fully dependent for all of her care needs for her entire life. She is not expected to develop beyond the level of a one-month-old infant. Liability was based upon the failure to aggressively monitor the mother and fetus post administration of antibiotics and failure to deliver the baby when infection was first suspected.
Delayed Admittance to Hospital – Cerebral Palsy
The Walkup team obtained a mediated settlement, one day before the commencement of arbitration, on behalf of a child who suffered profound injuries when her mother’s uterus ruptured at the site of a previous myomectomy (surgery to remove a fibroid in the uterine wall).
Two weeks prior to the baby’s emergent delivery, the child’s mother was hospitalized in pre-term labor at Kaiser San Francisco. After being medicated and released, she was advised to observe strict bed rest and communicate with Kaiser’s Pre-Term Birth Prevention Project. At 10:00 p.m. the evening before delivery, the parents called the maternity department to report painful contractions. Without determining the onset, frequency, characteristics or location of the pain suffered by the mother, an on-duty advice nurse advised the mother to take an additional dose of her anti-contraction medication and call if her condition worsened. Eight hours later, the mother awoke in severe pain. Her husband called 911. She was taken to a local hospital where the child was delivered by emergency C-section at 32 weeks gestation.
Claimants contended that Kaiser’s employees were negligent in failing to order the mother to the hospital at the time of the phone call. The child was diagnosed with periventricular leukomalacia, and later developed infantile spasms and cerebral palsy. The settlement was composed of both an initial cash payment and guaranteed future annuity payments to offset the cost of future medical, therapy, laboratory and attendant care.
Improper Placement Of IUD – Cerebral Palsy
The Walkup Kaiser obstetrical injury team represented a mother of four who sought birth control counseling from Kaiser. Her Kaiser physician placed an IUD without checking to see if she was pregnant, in violation of prevailing standards of care. When the doctor realized the patient was pregnant, an attempt was made to remove the IUD, the physician but could not do so safely. Our client refused to undergo an abortion, and carried her child to term. The presence of the IUD caused the development of an intrauterine infection and chorioamnionitis, which caused the child to suffer brain damage resulting in cerebral palsy. Under the terms of the confidential mediated settlement, a confidential multimillion-dollar cash payment, as well as tax-free future monthly payments guaranteed for the life of the child, were negotiated.
Failure to Recognize Neonatal Hypoglycemia – Loss of Pancreas/Neurological Injury
Walkup attorneys obtained a mediated settlement of $2,250,000 on behalf of a male infant who now suffers from blindness, developmental delay, and cognitive deficits, and who also had his pancreas removed after nursing staff at Kaiser Sacramento failed to follow proper protocols when the infant showed signs of hypoglycemia.
The infant was born weighing 10 pounds, 7-1/2 ounces, which should have triggered a nursing protocol requiring blood screening tests at one, two, four, six and eight hours of age. Any tests revealing low blood sugar levels required that a blood sample be drawn and sent for analysis. In this case, the infant’s six-hour test was conducted at seven hours of age and came back showing low blood sugar. However, the protocol requiring that blood be drawn and sent to the lab was not followed. The infant’s parents were never told of the abnormal result nor warned to look for signs of hypoglycemia. At 24 hours of age, the infant and his parents were discharged. On the second morning at home, his mother had a hard time rousing him, and he presented at Urgent Care lethargic, not nursing, and with purple feet. He then suffered several seizures and was admitted to the hospital. Tests revealed that he had nesidioblastosis, a disease of the pancreas, resulting in profound, unremitting hypoglycemia. An MRI revealed evidence of posterior cerebral artery infarction, consistent with the diagnosis of severe hypoglycemia. Ultimately, nearly all of the infant’s pancreas had to be removed. As a result of his cerebral injury, he was left blind, with developmental delay and cognitive deficiencies. Walkup attorneys retained experts to show that failure to follow the established nursing protocol led to failure to appropriately diagnose and treat the infant’s hypoglycemia, which led to the infant’s cerebral injuries. The settlement, in this case, was structured to pay monthly guaranteed payments, plus $732,000 to be paid into a trust on the infant’s behalf.
Delayed Diagnoses of Breast Cancer – Confidential Settlement
Walkup’s Kaiser malpractice attorneys obtained a seven-figure settlement on behalf of a fifty-one-year-old woman who experienced a two-year delay in the diagnosis of breast cancer. Twenty four months prior to her diagnosis claimant felt a lump in her breast and made an appointment with her gynecologist. Her Permanente Group physician performed a “bedside ultrasound” with a portable ultrasound machine and assured her that the lump represented benign fibrocystic changes. She was not offered a diagnostic mammogram, formal ultrasound or fine needle biopsy. Later, during a routine screening mammogram, the radiologist found a lesion in the same area where the plaintiff previously identified the lump. Further diagnostic evaluation, including an ultrasound and ultrasound-guided biopsy revealed stage IV breast cancer.
Failure To Diagnose Breast Cancer – Death
Walkup attorneys negotiated an undisclosed settlement after Kaiser failed to timely diagnose and treat breast cancer in a 56-year-old woman. By the time the breast cancer was discovered, it was in Stage III and the woman’s prospects for survival were grim.
The woman presented to Kaiser Oakland with breast lumps and was diagnosed with Stage I breast cancer in two different locations in her left breast. She underwent treatment for one area of lumps, however, was discharged without any follow-up to the lumps in the other area of her breast. She saw several Kaiser physicians over the next two years, and although the lumps were recorded in her medical chart, no Kaiser physician ever followed up with her about them. Over this period of time, the breast cancer developed from a highly treatable Stage I to Stage III from where it eventually metastasized to her brain. In addition to the failure to follow-up on the previous findings of lumps, Kaiser also negligently misread a mammogram as negative during this two-year period.
Delay in Diagnosis of Breast Cancer – Shortened Life Expectancy
Walkup attorneys procured a $250,000 mediated settlement for a 61-year-old wife, mother, and schoolteacher after doctors and nurse practitioners at Kaiser Santa Rosa failed to follow up when a lump was detected in patient’s right breast.
The patient, who conscientiously performed self-breast exams every month, reported the detection of a small lump to her gynecologist, who referred her to the breast clinic. A nurse practitioner at the clinic conducted a fine needle aspiration, but lab results indicated that the sample was too small to evaluate. Another sample was never ordered. Though the lump remained, it was not until two years later that the patient’s gynecologist suggested aggressive examination. A biopsy revealed that the lump was lobular carcinoma. The patient underwent a mastectomy, chemotherapy, and radiation, but the delay in diagnosis of what could have otherwise been early detection of breast cancer effectively reduced patient’s five-year life expectancy to well below 50%.
Failure to Timely Diagnose Lung Cancer – Metastatic Spread
Through mediation, Walkup attorneys secured a $600,000 settlement for a 50-year-old educator and aircraft mechanic whom Kaiser Sacramento doctors failed to diagnose with lung cancer. The patient first contacted Kaiser physicians 22 months before he was properly diagnosed, complaining of a persistent cough that kept him from sleeping. He was prescribed antibiotics over the phone. He next complained of the continuing cough and congestion 4 months later but received no treatment. He returned to the doctor the following month, with the same complaints and requested x-rays. The Kaiser doctor who saw the patient said x-rays would be a waste of time and diagnosed reactive airway disease. The patient returned again 4 months later, with the added complaint of upper chest pain, at which time x-rays were taken. The results, which showed an infiltrate in the right lower and middle lobes of the lung, were never revealed to the patient, because a nurse, untrained in radiology, determined that they were superfluous. The patient suffered through the next year, his condition worsening, believing that he had reactive lung disease. Finally, when he could no longer walk without suffering fatigue, the patient saw his primary care physician, who ordered x-rays, which revealed a large right pleural effusion. By this time, the patient’s tumor, which could have been resected at the time the first x-ray was taken, was completely inoperable. The settlement covered the patient’s personal injury claim, as well as his wife’s loss of consortium claim and any possible wrongful death claims.
Delayed Diagnoses of Breast Cancer – Seven figure Confidential Settlement
Walkup’s Kaiser malpractice attorneys obtained a seven-figure settlement on behalf of a fifty-one-year-old woman who experienced a two-year delay in the diagnosis of breast cancer. Twenty four months prior to her diagnosis the claimant felt a lump in her breast and made an appointment with her gynecologist. Her Permanente Group physician performed a “bedside ultrasound” with a portable ultrasound machine and assured her that the lump represented benign fibrocystic changes. She was not offered a diagnostic mammogram, formal ultrasound or fine needle biopsy. Later, during a routine screening mammogram, the radiologist found a lesion in the same area where the plaintiff previously identified the lump. Further diagnostic evaluation, including an ultrasound and ultrasound-guided biopsy revealed stage IV breast cancer.
Failure To Properly Conduct Heart Surgery-Permanent Heart Damage
Our Kaiser personal injury team represented a 56-year-old man who suffered permanent damage to his heart during a minimally invasive cardiac procedure. The patient was placed on cardiopulmonary bypass during heart surgery for eight hours. Our attorneys prove that the patient should not be on the bypass machine for more than 90 minutes. The extra time on the bypass machine during the surgery cost permanent heart damage, resulting in the need for a heart transplant. A confidential seven-figure settlement was achieved on behalf of the client.
Failure To Diagnose Heart Attack – Structured Settlement – Heart Attacks/Diseases
Our Kaiser cardiac medicine team obtained a pre-arbitration settlement in a 7-figure amount on behalf of the surviving spouse and adult son of a 49-year-old San Mateo County husband and father who suffered a fatal heart attack after his Kaiser physicians delayed in carrying out appropriate diagnostic studies and definitive treatment for symptoms suggesting an impending heart attack. The decedent, who had been a Kaiser member for many years, made complaints to his primary Permanente Group physician three weeks before his death of chest pain and shortness of breath. That doctor’s examination and subsequent testing revealed that the decedent had already probably suffered a small heart attack and was at high risk for another heart attack. An angiogram was scheduled for the future, and nitroglycerin tablets were prescribed to the patient. The decedent continued to have chest pain, but repeated telephone calls to the advice nurse were unsuccessful in getting him seen on an urgent basis. His fatal heart attack occurred the day before the scheduled angiogram was to have been performed.
Undiagnosed Cardiac Tamponade – Brain Damage
A combination cash and annuity settlement having a present cash value of $3,200,000 was recovered on behalf of a 49-year-old man who developed a cardiac tamponade four days after undergoing open heart surgery. The problem was neither timely diagnosed nor treated, and cardiopulmonary arrest ensued. By the time he was resuscitated, the patient had sustained severe anoxic brain damage. As a result of injury to the brain, he suffers from spastic quadriparesis, cortical blindness, dysarthria, cognitive impairment, loss of bowel and bladder control, and dysphagia. Because of impaired swallowing, and the risk of aspiration pneumonia, he must be fed through a gastrostomy tube. After one year in a residential care facility, the member was discharged home to the care of his family (spouse and siblings) who, despite limited financial resources, sacrificed to provide quality home care and round-the-clock nursing. Under the terms of the agreed-upon settlement, an annuity was funded to provide $15,000 per month for life, increasing by 4.5% per annum, to offset the cost of attendant and nursing care. In addition, $1,563,000 was paid in cash.
Heart Catheterization Mistake – Death
Walkup attorneys negotiated an $850,000 settlement of claims brought by a deceased patient’s wife and two adult children for the wrongful death of a 56-year-old engineer following arterial rupture during a routine angioplasty. The patient presented to Kaiser South San Francisco’s ER complaining of chest tightness and chest pressure. He received nitroglycerin, quickly stabilized and was determined to be a suitable candidate for cardiac catheterization, which was performed later that day at Kaiser San Francisco. The patient elected angioplasty procedure over bypass surgery. The cardiologist performed an angioplasty on the proximal left anterior descending artery, entering with various catheters, balloons, and stents. The stent did not expand fully against the vessel wall, though, so the doctor replaced the balloon with a slightly larger, non-compliant type, and inflated it to a higher pressure. This attempt was also unsuccessful, as was the second effort to expand the stent. A third effort was made, after which the patient began complaining of chest pains. Some 10 minutes later, a perforation in the left anterior descending coronary artery was recognized, and the patient’s vital signs collapsed. Resuscitation efforts were unsuccessful. The member alleged that the stent used in the procedure was too large and that the doctor doing the procedure did not have adequate experience. The settlement, in this case, included the statutory maximum amount allowed under MICRA for non-economic damages, as well as compensation for lost wages.
Failure to Appreciate Results of Blood Pressure Test – Death
Walkup attorneys obtained a binding Kaiser arbitration award in the amount of $946,616 on behalf of the surviving heirs of a Kaiser member who suffered a heart attack at age 48. The decedent, a long-time public servant in Contra Costa County, was running for assessor at the time of his death. Five weeks prior, he had undergone a 24 hour Holter monitor evaluation (the equivalent of a 24 hour EKG) because of irregularities noted during a routine blood pressure check. The Holter study indicated signs of ischemia (insufficient blood supply) to the heart. His survivors contended that Kaiser Walnut Creek physicians should have followed up on the Holter monitor results immediately and that a proper workup, including a thallium treadmill examination, would have resulted in a diagnosis of severe coronary artery disease and permitted timely bypass surgery.
Kaiser disputed liability, claiming that the findings reflected on the Holter monitor tracings were not diagnostic and were, in fact, insignificant. Kaiser also claimed that bypass surgery would not have prevented the fatal heart attack. The case was arbitrated for five days before a panel of three arbitrators. The award of damages included past economic loss of $128,000 and an award of $598,500 reflecting the present cash value of future economic losses. General damages for the wrongful death of this husband and father were limited by MICRA to $250,000.
Negligent Care Results in $2 Million Dollar Arbitration Award ( read more)
In one of the largest arbitration awards ever returned against Kaiser, our firm obtained a binding award in excess of $2,000,000 on behalf of a 52-year-old woman who suffered a respiratory arrest and precipitous drop in her blood pressure two days after undergoing abdominal surgery at Kaiser Walnut Creek. The arrest occurred shortly after an epidural catheter, which had been used for post-operative pain control, was replaced. Paul proved that the procedure resulted in a “high spinal.” High spinal anesthesia is a rare but potentially life-threatening complication of epidural anesthesia. Typically, the first signs of a high spinal block are a drop in blood pressure, a slowing of the heart rate, and difficulty in breathing.
Failure to Diagnose Cardiac Rhythm Disturbance – Brain Damage
Walkup’s Kaiser team negotiated a cash and annuity settlement in excess of four million dollars on behalf of a thirteen-year-old boy who was left in a persistent vegetative state requiring twenty-four a day nursing care because of Kaiser’s persistent failures to diagnose a genetic heart condition known as Prolonged QT Syndrome.
At age seven the child presented to the Kaiser emergency room with symptoms of a seizure. At age nine he returned again to the ER after losing consciousness and falling, The underlying cause of the loss of consciousness was never investigated. Then at age eleven the boy began having involuntary body spasms, convulsions and drooling. The primary Kaiser physician diagnosed the problems as seizures and referred him to a neurologist at Kaiser. Unfortunately, his condition was cardiac in origin and his heart was not supplying sufficient blood to his brain causing fainting and seizure-like activity. Kaiser’s physicians did not recognize that his symptoms required an EKG and cardiac evaluation. The young boy ultimately suffered cardiac arrest and hypoxic brain injury. He was rushed to the emergency room, but resuscitation could not reverse the severe damage already done. The negotiated a settlement against Kaiser at mediation provided for the young boy’s pain and suffering and for his continuing medical expenses.
Misdiagnosis of Aortic Dissection – Amputation/Brain Damage
Walkup attorneys obtained a mediated settlement of $1,100,000 on behalf of a 56-year-old real estate broker who suffered brain damage and required amputations of both legs below the knees after Kaiser Richmond Emergency Room doctors misdiagnosed his aortic dissection as angina, delaying treatment of this surgical emergency.
The patient presented to the Kaiser Richmond ER at 10:00 a.m., complaining of severe chest pain. He was forced to wait as his pain intensified until his wife demanded immediate care. Tests performed in the ER included an EKG, chest x-ray and enzyme study. These ruled out myocardial infarction or heart attack. Patient’s pain and a significant aortic murmur strongly suggested aortic dissection, but no CT scan was taken. Additionally, the patient’s family history, which included aortic dissection (a hereditary condition), was never obtained by the ER staff. Despite signs of possible aortic dissection, angina was diagnosed and the patient was started on an aggressive regimen of anticoagulants, which were contra-indicated. Nearly 10 hours later, the patient was transferred to Summit Medical Center in Oakland to undergo angioplasty. Pre-surgery tests indicated that the patient was suffering from aortic dissection and surgery ensued. However, due to the extensive bleeding caused by the delay and the anticoagulants administered at Kaiser Richmond, the patient bled heavily throughout the surgery and for several days following. The results of this extensive blood loss included thrombosis of all vessels in his lower extremities, requiring amputation of both legs below the knee, as well as anoxic brain injury, manifesting in complete short term memory loss, decreased IQ, decreased motivation, and a completely new and passive personality. The settlement, which included both cash and annuity payments, included the full MICRA amount for non-economic damages, as well as lost past and future earnings, and compensation for past and future medical expenditure.
Death Resulting from Kaiser Permanente Failure to Monitor Following Brain Surgery
Attorneys at Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger obtained a settlement in the amount of $575,000 on behalf of the heirs of a 62-year-old Kaiser member who died due to a failure by Kaiser Redwood City nurses to adequately monitor his neurological status following brain surgery.
The member underwent a resection of the third ventricle to remove a tumor. He came through the procedure in stable condition but developed increased intracranial pressure during the night following surgery. Nurses failed to adequately monitor his neurological status as required by existing protocols, and the swelling of his brain was not reported to the member’s neurosurgeon until the following morning. That physician attempted to reduce the pressure caused by the swelling by performing an emergency shunt procedure, but it was too late, as the increased intracranial pressure had caused irreversible global brain damage. The member was comatose until his death three days later.
Brain Damage and Kaiser Permanente
The Walkup Kaiser team negotiated a settlement on behalf of a 51-year-old man who suffered loss of vision, balance problems, hearing loss, headaches, cognitive impairment, and short-term memory loss when Kaiser South San Francisco personnel failed to timely diagnose and treat his transitory ischemic attacks (TIA). The patient suffered a massive stroke as a result.
The patient visited the Kaiser emergency room several times in the days leading up to his stroke. His symptoms included neck tightness, numbness in his hands and face, slurred speech, drooling, dizziness, and balance problems. Though a nurse practitioner suspected TIA and suggested a carotid ultrasound, none was ever ordered. When the patient presented to the ER the day before his stroke, Kaiser doctors delayed several hours in performing a CT scan and administered inappropriate medications. Walkup attorneys were able to show that timely diagnosis and administration of the proper medications could have prevented the patient’s stroke. The settlement included cash and annuity payments guaranteed to provide for in-home care for the member, as well as compensation for lost earnings. It also included the MICRA maximum amount for non-economic damages.
Failure To Diagnose Cardiac Tamponade – Brain Damage
Our Kaiser medical negligence attorneys negotiated a settlement of $3,195,500 on behalf of a man who suffered brain damage resulting in the need for twenty-four-hour care due to Kaiser’s failure to diagnose a cardiac tamponade. Our client was admitted to Kaiser to undergo heart surgery. Surgery was performed and he tolerated it well and appeared to be making an excellent recovery. Four days after surgery, while still in the hospital, he developed symptoms of cardiac tamponade. His doctors and nurses failed to promptly diagnose and treat the problem, and he suffered a cardiopulmonary arrest which led to anoxic encephalopathy and brain damage.
Negligently Performed Pediatric Neurosurgery – Quadriplegia
In a recent case involving a six-year-old girl rendered a ventilator-dependent quadriplegic, Walkup’s Kaiser attorneys negotiated a settlement of 6,350,000 after a Kaiser doctor misdiagnosed a spinal cord injury and performed high-risk neurosurgery on the young girl causing her permanent paralysis.
The child underwent surgery shortly after birth for placement of a ventriculo-peritoneal shunt to treat hydrocephalus, and had been undergoing regular checks of the VP shunt up until the time she reported problems with coordination shortly after her fifth birthday. Her condition during her first five years was essentially normal. She was able to play sports and was enrolled in a normal kindergarten class. Some of Kaiser’s most experienced neurologists examined the child and ruled out the possibility of a congenital Arnold Chiari malformation, or tethered cord. Despite the fact that such previous treating doctor’s ruled out rare and complicated neurological conditions, a consulting Kaiser physician misdiagnosed a surgically treatable lesion conditions and performed a high-risk surgery. As a result of complications, the young girl was rendered quadriplegic.
Kaiser attempted to claim that the surgeon was not acting as an employee of Kaiser when the treatment was rendered. The Walkup team won legal motions establishing that Kaiser was liable for the young girl’s injuries, and Kaiser subsequently sought to negotiate a settlement. The settlement was reached after two days of mediation and included both upfront cash and a long-term annuity to pay for the ongoing medical care for the young girl.
Delayed Diagnosis of Spinal Infection – Total Disability
Walkup attorneys negotiated a settlement on behalf of a man who suffered debilitating back injury because of Kaiser’s failure to diagnose and treat a spinal infection that developed after a decompressive lumbar laminectomy.
The man went to Kaiser San Francisco complaining of recurring lower back pain with radiating pain and numbness in his legs. He was diagnosed with lumbar stenosis at L4-5 and underwent a laminectomy procedure. Following the surgical procedure, the client was relieved of symptoms and initially considered the procedure a success. However eight months following the surgery he began to experience intense stiffness and swelling in his low back. He returned to Kaiser San Francisco and explained to doctors that he was having a significant recurrence of pain. Kaiser doctor’s examined and tested the man, and informed him to rest and that the condition would improve on its own.
The patient then continued on for several more months while taking prescription pain medications to mask the pain. Finally, after several months he returned to Kaiser and was diagnosed with a staph aureus infection of the spine. Walkup’s team of Kaiser injury specialists argued the infection was present following the surgery, and that the permanent damage to the man’s spine was a direct result of Kaiser’s negligence.
Paraplegia – Failure to Diagnose Spinal Cord Compression
In a case involving a patient rendered paraplegic due to a failure to diagnose a herniated lumbar disk, the Kaiser medical negligence attorneys of Walkup Melodia obtained a cash and annuity settlement in a confidential amount after Kaiser employees failed to properly evaluate and treat the client for neurological symptoms and spinal cord compression.
On two separate visits, the patient identified complaints which should have resulted in immediate hospitalization and timely decompression surgery, but nothing was done. On a third visit, he again made complaints of neurologic impairment which were ignored. Finally, on a fourth occasion, an evaluation disclosed disk herniation with cord compression requiring emergent surgical intervention.
Failure to Diagnose Spinal Cord Abscess – Permanent Disability
The medical negligence attorneys at Walkup obtained a $1,950,000 settlement after Kaiser failed to timely diagnose an abscess compromising a man’s spinal canal, resulting in partial permanent disability. At age fifty-six, our client experienced increasing back pain and immobility. In one month he consulted four different Kaiser doctors, was seen twice by a physical therapist and exhibited progressive neurological symptoms without an apparent cause. The first doctor ordered no tests, diagnosed a virus, and prescribed over-the-counter pain medications. Two weeks later the second Kaiser doctor, after getting results from x-rays and lab tests, and aware that the man had been hospitalized nine years earlier with lumbar osteomyelitis, nonetheless failed to take steps to exclude an infectious cause of the symptoms. Ten days later the patient’s pain was so bad he sought help from Kaiser’s Emergency Department. Only looking at a prior x-ray, and Failing to access any of the patient’s current lab results, the ER doctor decided that the patient had severe degenerative joint disease and injected a steroid. The patient again went to the Emergency Department three days later because the pain was so unbearable. Two days later the patient was found at home unable to walk. A bacterial infection had caused a spinal cord abscess. He requires twenty-four-hour care and will most likely be confined to a wheelchair for the remainder of his life and be dependent on others for most of his needs. The settlement provided for his medical care and needs, his loss of income, and his wife’s loss of consortium.
Delayed Diagnosis of Tethered Cord Syndrome – Paraplegia
The Walkup Melodia team of Kaiser health plan medical negligence attorneys obtained a cash and annuity settlement on behalf of a thirty-year-old woman with spina bifida after Permanente group doctors failed to timely diagnose tethered cord syndrome, resulting in permanent paraplegia. Although born with L-4 level spina bifida, our client was essentially independent in all activities of daily living. She then developed tethered cord syndrome, a known and treatable complication of spina bifida. Kaiser personnel ion Santa Rosa failed to correctly diagnose and treat her problem for over fifteen months. after the onset of symptoms of tethered cord. Due to this delay, she is now unable to walk, which places her at risk for new medical complications,. She requires assistance in activities of daily living, and her employability has been compromised.
Delayed Diagnosis of Thoracic Disc Disease – Paraplegia
We negotiated a $1,225,000 settlement on behalf of a fifty-six-year-old man who became paraplegic due to a delayed diagnosis and treatment of severe and progressive thoracic disc disease. The man went to Vallejo Kaiser complaining of patches of numbness on his feet. His doctor believed he had peripheral neuropathy and recommended a neurology consultation. At that consultation, the neurologist erroneously settled upon a diagnosis of Cauda Equina Syndrome, which is in fact a medical emergency, yet immediate action still was not taken. If proper diagnostic testing had been conducted, a correct diagnosis would have been made at this time and it would have prevented his paralysis. While he waited for appropriate diagnostic tests, his numbness worsened and he eventually needed a wheelchair. An MRI ultimately showed multiple herniations of the thoracic spine causing central cord impingement and neuro foraminal narrowing. Still, nothing was done. It was another two weeks before emergency surgery was performed. After undergoing two surgeries he was completely paralyzed.
Emergency Room Negligence – Major Confidential Settlement
Our medical malpractice wrongful death trial lawyers obtained a major Confidential Settlement in a wrongful death case on behalf of the surviving wife and daughter of a 55-year-old contractor who died of an undiagnosed aortic dissection after spending 36 hours in the hospital without ever being seen by a cardiologist. The doctors who saw the patient failed to recognize that he needed an emergency evaluation to rule out aortic dissection. A cardiology consultation and echocardiogram would have made the diagnosis but were never ordered. Instead, the doctors continued to prescribe nitroglycerine and intravenous morphine for ongoing chest pain. The decedent died shortly after a stress treadmill test, which worsened the tearing of the aorta.
Failure To Diagnose Bleeding Aneurysm – Total Disability – Brain Injuries
Our Kaiser neurosurgery malpractice lawyers prosecuted and settled a medical negligence action against Kaiser and the Permanente Medical Group on behalf of a Silicon Valley electrical engineer, his wife, and children when the patient suffered catastrophic brain damage because of a delay in diagnosing and treating a leaking aneurysm. The Kaiser member had gone to the emergency department with complaints of a facial droop, changes in his speech and a feeling of numbness in his face and tongue. The emergency room doctor ordered a CT scan that showed a suspicious finding. She wanted to get additional tests, but she was overruled by her superiors. A non-emergent MRI of the brain was scheduled for ten days later. While the patient was waiting to get his test, the leaking aneurysm ruptured. The case was prosecuted in the Kaiser Arbitration System. A settlement was made up of both cash payments and future payments to replace the loss of income which the Kaiser member sustained as a result of his permanent brain damage. If the case had not been settled it would have proceeded to a binding arbitration. The settlement which our Kaiser team negotiated is sufficient to take care of the daily attendant care needs of the Kaiser member and to replace the income which his family has lost because of his permanent disability.
Medication Overdose – Multi-million dollar confidential settlement
Our medical malpractice attorneys negotiated a major confidential settlement on behalf of a young man who was left in a permanent vegetative state after Kaiser Hospital physicians and nurses failed to treat worsening sepsis and pneumonia and overdosed him with intravenous tranquilizers, causing ischemic brain damage. The plaintiff, a 27-year-old restaurant worker, presented to the Emergency Room with vomiting, shortness of breath, and chest pain. Blood tests and a chest CT scan proved consistent with sepsis and pneumonia. The ER physician started intravenous antibiotics and transferred the patient to the ICU, but no ICU physician assumed responsibility for his care. The patient became obtunded and his breathing slowed. The physician who finally arrived at the bedside lacked the ICU skills to place a breathing tube to connect the patient to a ventilator.
Injuries To Children – Failure To Diagnosis Compartment Syndrome
Our Kaiser orthopedic surgery litigation team obtained a binding arbitration award, in the Kaiser Arbitration System, resulting from an orthopedic surgeon’s failure to recognize and treat compartment syndrome in a high school junior. The student suffered a tibia fracture during the first day of basketball tryouts. He went to the emergency room at the San Francisco Kaiser Hospital and was referred to the on-call orthopedist. That doctor decided to treat the broken leg by the use of a cast. After the leg was casted, the youngster began to experience severe pain, out of all proportion to the original injury. This should have been a sign of impaired circulation and reduce blood flow because of a cast that was too tight. The Permanente Group physician who was taking care of him failed to recognize the signs of compromised blood flow caused by the too-tight cast. This led to permanent muscle and nerve damage in the leg. At arbitration, our client recovered damages for pain and suffering as well as economic losses reflecting his potential loss of a college scholarship based upon his athletic prowess.
Treatment Delay- Major Confidential Settlement
Our Kaiser team obtained a major (multiple six-figure settlements) on behalf of a teenage girl who experienced delayed treatment of a vision-threatening but surgically treatable condition called pseudotumor cerebri. The previously healthy girl presented several times to Kaiser with the new onset of severe headaches and visual complaints, which began after she had received a tetracycline type antibiotic. Despite this classic presentation of pseudotumor cerebri, no ophthalmology evaluation was performed for two weeks. Once the diagnosis was finally made, the attending physicians failed to recognize the need for emergency surgical intervention, allowing her vision to deteriorate for three more weeks. By then, increased pressure on her optic nerves had caused permanent vision loss that could not be reversed.
Failure to Diagnose Multiple Myeloma – Loss of Kidney Function
Walkup attorneys negotiated a settlement for a 56-year-old patient who developed kidney failure and required lifetime dialysis after Kaiser Walnut Creek doctors failed to take proper steps to treat what lab results and patient symptoms unequivocally indicated was multiple myeloma. The patient presented to his primary care physician complaining of back pain, nausea, weakness, and fatigue, along with elevated creatinine and BUN. Though his PCP thought it probable that the patient had myeloma, she neglected to follow the standard of care, which required an aggressive workup and use of medications to reduce elevated calcium and uric acid levels, and administration of fluids to combat dehydration. It was not until two weeks later when the patient presented to the Kaiser Walnut Creek Emergency Department with back pain, shortness of breath, anemia and kidney failure that doctors begin to treat his myeloma. At that point, the damage to the kidneys had become irreversible. Walkup attorneys proved that had the patient’s PCP made the appropriate diagnosis when it was first suspected, and followed the appropriate treatment protocols, the damage to the patient’s kidneys could have been reversed, and lifelong dialysis would not have been necessary. In addition, the patient’s need for dialysis made it impossible for him to seek treatment through new experimental medications. Included in the settlement was a separate payment for loss of consortium to the patient’s wife.
Contact a California Kaiser Attorney
To talk to a California Kaiser lawyer about your medical malpractice case, call the San Francisco law firm of Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger at (415) 889-2919 for a Free Consultation.