Los Angeles

Family Challenges State Law Capping Damages for Medical Negligence

The plaintiffs note that the law was enacted when Gerald Ford was president and that the value of a $250,000 award is worth about $25,000 to $55,000 today.

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Family members who claim a loved one died due to the negligence of doctors at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center filed court papers Tuesday challenging the state's decades-old law putting a $250,000 cap on pain and suffering due to medical mistakes.

Charles Johnson IV and his two minor sons, along with the law firm of Carpenter, Zuckerman & Rowley, are the plaintiffs in the still unofficial Los Angeles Superior Court suit brought against Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Alan Steinbrecher, chairman of the board of trustees for the State Bar of California.

The plaintiffs seek a declaration that the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act enacted by the state Legislature in 1975 is unconstitutional under state and federal law and that an injunction be issued enjoining its enforcement.

The plaintiffs allege that because of the law, the scales of justice are tipped in favor of the wrongdoers in medical negligence cases.

"It is not David v. Goliath, it is not akin to bringing a knife to a gunfight, it is much worse than that," the plaintiffs state in their court papers.

A representative for Becerra's office did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

The plaintiffs note that the law was enacted when Gerald Ford was president and that the value of a $250,000 award is worth about $25,000 to $55,000 today.

In their underlying separate suit still pending in Los Angeles Superior Court, the plaintiffs allege Kyira Dixon died due to the negligence of doctors at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in April 2016. She had received prenatal care and delivery at the hospital, according to the plaintiffs. Johnson, her husband, alleges he suffered negligent infliction of emotional distress.

However, for a variety of reasons, including the coronavirus outbreak and a downturn in the economy, the Johnson family can no longer afford to pay the litigation costs for their case, the plaintiffs state.

Carpenter, Zuckerman & Rowley alleges that if the firm took the Johnson case, it would cost about $200,000 to prosecute on behalf of the family and that when all was said and done, the recovery in attorneys' fees would be about $20,000. The firm could only afford to take the case if it could charge its normal fee and the $250,000 cap was removed, according to the plaintiffs.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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