The Court of Appeal of the State of California First Appellate District Division One (“California Appellate Court”) overturned a California medical malpractice jury’s award of $9,577,000 as the present cash value of the future medical and rehabilitation care expenses in a birth injury case because “the trial court’s decision to exclude evidence of future insurance benefits that might be available under the ACA on the basis that the ACA is unlikely to continue was an abuse of discretion.”
The ACA refers to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) (Pub.L. No. 111-148 (Mar. 23, 2010) 124 Stat. 119), commonly referred to as the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare.
The Underlying Facts
The plaintiff is the surviving twin of a monochorionic-diamniotic pregnancy (where identical twins share a placenta but have separate amniotic sacs). During the mother’s scheduled prenatal appointment at 37 weeks and six days, only one fetal heartbeat could be detected. The mother was transferred to a hospital by ambulance, where the twins were delivered via caesarian section. The plaintiff’s twin had died, and the plaintiff had suffered a hypoxic brain injury (irreversible brain damage in utero) that resulted in a very low verbal IQ, serious language communication difficulties, significant behavioral problems, severe developmental delay, and cerebral palsy, for which he will be dependent on others for his personal care and safety for the rest of his life.
The plaintiff filed a California medical malpractice lawsuit in which he alleged medical malpractice as to him and negligent infliction of emotional distress as to his mother, alleging that he sustained his injury because the defendant obstetrician breached the applicable standard of care by failing to schedule his delivery prior to 37 weeks’ gestation.
The California medical malpractice jury found in the plaintiff’s favor on liability and awarded $100 million for future medical, hospital, surgical, and rehabilitation care expenses, which it reduced to $9,577,000 in present cash value. The total represents approximately one-third of what the plaintiff had sought, and about three times the total in the private pay version of the defendant’s life care plan that the trial court admitted into evidence.
The California Appellate Court Decision
The California Appellate Court’s April 27, 2017 decision held that the defendant presented evidence sufficient to support the continued viability of the ACA, as well as its application to plaintiff’s circumstances. Because the defendant did not contest the California medical malpractice jury’s findings of liability and proximate cause, the California Appellate Court reversed the judgment and remanded the case for a new trial only on the amount of the plaintiff’s future medical damages.
The California Appellate Court stated in a footnote to its decision, “We deny plaintiff’s motion for judicial notice of President Donald Trump’s executive order dated January 20, 2017, in which he announced his policy to seek the prompt repeal of the ACA. The document is not necessary to our decision.”
Source Cuevas v. Contra Costa County, A143440 & A144041.
If your baby suffered a birth injury during labor and/or delivery in California or in another U.S. state, you should promptly find a birth injury attorney in California or in your state who may investigate your birth injury claim for you and represent you and your child in a birth injury case, if appropriate.
Click on the “Contact Us Now” tab to the right, visit our website, or call us toll-free in the United States at 800-295-3959 to find birth injury lawyers in your state who may assist you.
Turn to us when you don’t know where to turn.