Defective Surgery Was Medical Malpractice

Jury Awards $3,600,950.44 in Medical Malpractice Case

SAN FRANCISCO, CA — April 19, 2000 — A San Francisco Jury awarded $3,600,950.44 to a 45 year–old pharmacist and mother of two, Yvonne Kimura of Fresno, California, against the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center.

The trial began on April 3, 2000, before San Francisco Superior Court Judge James J. McBride. Plaintiff asserted that surgery performed in July of 1996 by the University physicians fell below the standard of care in the technique employed. The result of the surgery was that plaintiffs’ tibial nerve in her left leg was severed, resulting in permanent loss of motor and sensory function to her foot. She is now required to wear a brace to minimize the gate abnormality caused by the nerve injury.

In this case, plaintiff contended that during the surgery the physicians sacrificed the branch of the sciatic nerve without knowing what effect this would have on Ms. Kimura.

Plaintiff contended that at the moment the surgeons decided to cut the nerve, they did not know whether it was a motor nerve or a sensory nerve and took no steps to find out. Indeed, no specialist consultation was sought. Plaintiff’s experts testified that severing the tibial nerve in the context of removing a benign tumor fell below the standard of care. It was the opinion of plaintiff’s experts that the technique involved and the instruments used during the surgery were not those which were appropriate for the removal of this benign tumor.

The jury found that The Regents of the University of California was negligent in the medical care and treatment of plaintiff and such negligence was a cause of plaintiff’s injury. The jury awarded plaintiff damages totaling $3,600,950.44. The award included non–economic damages for plaintiff’s past and future pain and suffering from her permanent injury and resulting disability in the amount of $3,315,000, and economic damages for plaintiff’s past and future wage loss and medical expenses in the amount of $285,950.44.

However, under the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act of 1975 (MICRA), the non–economic damages are statutorily reduced from $3,315,000 to $250,000 for a total damage award of $535,950.44. This Act, applicable only in medical malpractice actions, has been the law in the State of California since 1975. Despite numerous attempts to amend the law, there has never been an increase in the $250,000 cap on pain and suffering damages since the enactment of MICRA in 1975. Defendants made no settlement offers prior to trial.

Plaintiffs were represented at trial by James Geagan, formerly of Brayton Purcell LLP of Novato, California.