Burns White lawyer David R. Johnson successfully defended a medical malpractice case recently in which the plaintiffs were seeking in excess of $12 million in future medical expenses and lost earning capacity, for a young woman who required a kidney transplant at the age of 14.
Following Mr. Johnson’s cross-examination of plaintiff’s life care planner, the trial judge determined that the witness was not qualified to offer any testimony regarding future medical damages or the vocational limitations related to having received a kidney transplant. As a result, plaintiffs were unable to seek compensation for either future medical damages or loss of future earnings.
Subsequently, the jury found in favor of Mr. Johnson’s client, a pediatrician who had cared for the plaintiff prior to her kidney transplant. The jury determined that the care provided by this physician met the applicable standard of care. “And, as our expert carefully explained,” Mr. Johnson said, “there was nothing that the doctor could have done to prevent the kidney transplant.”
Two co-defendants—one a pediatrician who had cared for the plaintiff for many years, and the other, a clinic whose physician assistants failed to follow-up on stage 2 hypertension – were found to have been negligent. The jury awarded damages totaling over $4.2 million. The verdict consisted of $1 million for past non-economic harm, such as pain and suffering, $3 million for future non-economic harm, and the balance for past medical bills that had been paid by a lien holder. “The verdict against these other parties who were deemed responsible for damages could have been much higher had the jury been permitted to consider awarding amounts for future medical bills or lost earning capacity,” Mr. Johnson noted. “Limiting potential damages in a case like this can often be extremely important.”
In personal injury litigation, the level of damages premised on the testimony of life care planners and economists is often enormously high. “In many instances witnesses are proffered as experts in areas where they are not properly qualified,” Mr. Johnson said. “And, at times, if they are not effectively challenged, these witnesses are permitted to testify about matters which are simply speculative.”
Mr. Johnson is an experienced litigator who has tried over 125 personal injury cases to verdict—many involving catastrophic injuries or birth trauma.