On February 18, 2011, according to the Los Angeles Times, the University of Southern California Hospital halted its kidney transplants after a kidney was accidentally transplanted into the wrong patient. Luckily, the patient who received the wrong kidney escaped substantial harm and possibly death because the kidney just so happened to be an acceptable match.

According to the article, USC Hospital performs about two transplants a week, which means there are a little over a 100 kidney transplants in a given year. Dr. Goran Klintmalm, a veteran surgeon at Baylor Regional Transplant Institute in Dallas, was quoted as saying that such a mistake is almost inconceivable. “The safeguards are very substantial,” he said. “I can’t even imagine how this mistake could have happened.”

According to a 2000 study by the American Heart Association, medical errors cost tens of thousands of lives in hospitals across the United States each year – more than deaths from highway accidents, breast cancer, and AIDS combined. Studies have put the numbers of deaths at over 98,000 annually in hospitals.

For more information, or if you or a loved one, have been injured as the result of medical malpractice in California, please contact the experienced lawyers at Mulligan, Banham & Findley. Our telephone number is 619-238-8700.

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In the 1970’s, the State of Virginia capped awards in medical malpractice lawsuits at $750,000. In 2008, the cap was increased to $2 million. On February 24, 2011, according to an article in The Washington Post, the General Assembly in Virginia agreed to raise awards in medical malpractice lawsuits $50,000 each year starting in 2012. The bill calls for an increase from a cap of $2 million starting in 2012 and then $50,000 each year until 2031. The cap applies to “any verdict returned against a health care provider in an action for malpractice.”

How does this compare to the State of California? While California does not have a cap on overall damages in medical malpractice lawsuits, California does have a cap on non-economic damages for things such as pain, suffering, and loss of companionship. The Medical Injury Compensation Recovery Act of 1975, known as MICRA, sets a limit on non-economic damages at no more than $250,000 in California. This cap on non-economic damages has not changed in over 36 years!!!

Using an inflation calculator based on data from U.S. government’s Consumer Price Index (CPI), $250,000 in 1975 is equivalent to a whopping $1,023.341 in the year 2011. That’s an increase of over 300%. Or, another way of putting it, $250,000 in 2011 is equivalent to only $61,074 in 1975.

The non-economic damages cap in California is particularly unfair to young children, the elderly, the disabled, and stay-at-home parents. Basically, anyone who was not working or underemployed at the time of their injury or death. As a result of the substantial costs involved in pursuing a medical malpractice case, the cap on non-economic damages prevents many California citizens who have been harmed by a doctor or hospital, through no fault of their own, from being able to seek justice.

For more information, or if you or a loved one, have been injured as the result of medical malpractice in California, please contact the experienced lawyers at Mulligan, Banham & Findley. Our telephone number is 619-238-8700.

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In the early 1970’s, a medical insurance crisis supposedly gripped the State of California. In 1975, then (and current) Governor Jerry Brown called a special session of the California Legislature and the legislature passed the Medical Injury Compensation Recovery Act, known as MICRA. Since its enactment, California’s MICRA has been touted as a model of tort reform for the entire nation.

MICRA applies to actions (i.e. lawsuits) filed against a “health care provider” based on “professional negligence” or medical malpractice. MICRA’s most controversial element is a $250,000 cap on non-economic damages for pain & suffering, regardless of how egregious the medical negligence or how serious the injury. The $250,000 limitation on non-economic damages is not indexed for inflation. There is also a limitation on attorney contingency fees in medical malpractice cases (40 % of the first $50,000, 33.33 % of the next $50,000, 25 % of the next $500,000, and 15 % of any amount that exceeds $600,000), the statute of limitations for actions against healthcare providers was shortened by MICRA, there is a requirement that there be advance notice of claims against healthcare providers, MICRA allows for binding arbitrations, MICRA abrogates the collateral source rule, and MICRA allows for doctors to pay judgments over time.

In California, there are certain causes of actions where MICRA’s cap on non-economic damages is not applicable. The following is a list of the types of cases, that when established, can allow for greater recovery: Battery (Perry v. Shaw (2001) 88 Cal.App.4th 658), Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Actions (see CA Welfare & Institutions Code Section 15657), Fraud, Unfair Business Practices (CA Business and Professions Code Section 17200), unlicensed health care providers (including telemedicine care) for residents by out of state health care providers (Lathrop v. Healthcare Partners Medical Group (2004) 114 Cal.App.4th 1412) and a failure to summon medical care for a prisoner (Flores v. Natividad Medical Center (1987) 192 Cal.App.3d 1106).

For more information, or if you or a loved one, have been injured as the result of medical malpractice in California, please contact the experienced lawyers at Mulligan, Banham & Findley. Our telephone number is 619-238-8700.

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