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Medical malpractice statute reduces $1.75 million award

When a patient goes for a standard operation, such as an appendectomy or a hiatal hernia, and the patient dies shortly thereafter, an investigation must be instituted by the next of kin as quickly as possible. There is generally going to be some kind of irregularity that occurred in the procedure, assuming that the death is, in fact, related to the surgery. By getting the facts and the records early, the surviving family of the decedent will be in a much better position to evaluate under California law whether the death was caused by medical malpractice.

In a case in the Los Angeles Superior Court, a jury recently awarded two siblings the sum of $1.75 million for the death of their 44-year-old mother in 2013. The plaintiffs were teenagers at that time. Their mother went to facilities owned by the University of California for a surgical procedure to fix a hiatal hernia. It is alleged that the surgeons failed to observe and diagnose a stomach perforation during the surgery.

The woman's condition worsened and she died about six weeks after the surgery. The plaintiffs proved that the death was caused by the surgeons' negligence, which supports the jury verdict. However, this case is an example of how modern anti-malpractice legislation hurts innocent patients and family members victimized by medical malpractice. Under a California statute in effect since 1975, damages for pain and suffering is capped at $250,000.

Thus, the children will get a pittance of what the mother's life and the loss to them was worth at the point of her death. Apparently, the award constituted primarily pain and suffering damages. If this legislation to protect negligent medical providers did not exist, the $1.75 million would be paid. California is not alone and has joined many other states having unduly restrictive legislation in medical malpractice cases. In light of recent revelations making medical negligence a major cause of deaths in the country each year, legislation like this should be repealed and citizens' rights should be restored.

Source:, "Jury awards family $1.75M in UCLA malpractice lawsuit", Hoa Quach, July 15, 2016

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