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Clantonn v. United States

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

July 27, 2018

KEVIN CLANTON, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL, United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Kevin Clanton filed this medical malpractice action under the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”) in February 2015. Following a five-day bench trial in October 2016, the Court issued an Order setting forth its findings of fact and conclusions of law and awarding Clanton over $29 million in damages (Doc. 134). That figure was later amended to over $31 million (Doc. 150). Before final judgment was entered, the parties reached a tentative settlement for a lesser amount, and the case was stayed pending approval of the settlement by the United States Attorney General (Doc. 151). In an unexpected and puzzling turn of events, however, the settlement was rejected by the Attorney General. So the stay was lifted, and the parties were ordered to submit their calculations and proposed judgments by November 8, 2017 (Doc. 155). But two days before that deadline, the Government filed a Motion for Reconsideration (Doc. 156), which is currently before the Court.

         In the motion, the Government asks the Court to reconsider Clanton's award for noneconomic damages because the Court did not analyze the awards in comparable cases, and those awards demonstrate that Clanton's award is excessive. Second, the Government asks the Court to reconsider its ruling that Medicare Part B benefits are a collateral source and should not be deducted from Clanton's award. Finally, the Government asks the Court to amend its Order regarding the entry of a judgment under the Illinois periodic payment provisions to eliminate any continuing payment obligations on the Government and to address the manner in which the Government can satisfy and discharge the judgment.

         Clanton filed a response to the Government's motion (Doc. 160), as well as a request for a hearing (Doc. 161). The Government then filed a reply in support of its motion (Doc. 162). The Court has carefully considered the parties' submissions, and for the reasons explained in this Order, Clanton's motion for a hearing and the Government's motion for reconsideration are both denied.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         The Court has the inherent power to modify and revise interlocutory orders at any time before it enters final judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(b) (providing that non-final orders “may be revised at any time before the entry of a judgment adjudicating all the claims and all the parties' rights and liabilities.”); Peterson v. Lindner, 765 F.2d 698, 704 (7th Cir. 1985) (“Of course, if the order was interlocutory, [the district judge] had the power to reconsider it at any time before final judgment.”). The Court's authority “to reconsider a previous ruling in the same litigation . . . is governed by [the law of the case doctrine].” Santamarina v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 466 F.3d 570, 571-72 (7th Cir. 2006). “Among other things, the law of the case doctrine embodies the notion that a court ought not to re-visit an earlier ruling in a case absent a compelling reason, such as manifest error or a change in the law, that warrants re-examination.” Minch v. City of Chicago, 486 F.3d 294, 301 (7th Cir. 2007) (citing Santamarina, 466 F.3d at 572). The doctrine is intended to further consistency, to avoid constantly revisiting rulings, and to conserve judicial resources. Sharp Elecs. Corp. v. Metro. Life Ins. Co., 578 F.3d 505, 510 (7th Cir. 2009) (citing Minch, 486 F.3d at 301).

         DAMAGE AWARDS INCOMPARABLE CASES

         The Court awarded Clanton $13.75 million in noneconomic damages (Docs. 134, 150). The Government asks the Court to reconsider this award because the Court did not analyze the noneconomic damages awards handed down in other cases, and those awards demonstrate that Clanton's award is excessive (Doc. 156, p. 4).

         “Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 52(a) requires judges, when they are the triers of fact, to make written findings in support of their conclusions.” Jutzi-Johnson v. United States, 263 F.3d 753, 758 (7th Cir.2001). “This means, when the issue is the amount of damages, that the judge must indicate the reasoning process that connects the evidence to the conclusion.” Arpin v. United States, 521 F.3d 769, 776 (7th Cir. 2008) (quoting Jutzi- Johnson v. United States, 263 F.3d 753, 758 (7th Cir. 2001)). To that end, the Court should consider awards made in similar cases, both in Illinois and elsewhere. Arpin, 521 F.3d at 776. The Court admits that it failed to discuss comparable cases in determining an appropriate award for noneconomic damages. Thus, the Court will provide here what it omitted from its previous Orders (Docs. 134, 150).

         Assessing noneconomic damages is a difficult task for which there is no formula. See, e.g., Arpin, 521 F.3d at 776; Jutzi-Johnson, 263 F.3d at 758. The purpose of consulting the damages awards in other cases is to facilitate “a more thoughtful, disciplined, and informed award.” Jutzi-Johnson, 263 F.3d at 760. “[B]ut caution should be the byword when looking at past awards” because they offer “at best, a rough approximation of damage awards.” Adams v. City of Chi., 798 F.3d 539, 545 (7th Cir. 2015). “[T]hey do not establish a range beyond which awards are necessarily excessive.” Farfaras v. Citizens Bank & Tr. of Chicago, 433 F.3d 558, 566 (7th Cir. 2006). See also Adams, 798 F.3d at 545 (“There must be room for [an] award to exceed the relevant range of cases when the facts warrant.”). Instead, they merely provide “a reference point that assists the court in assessing reasonableness[.]” Farfaras, 433 F.3d at 566. Consequently, the Court's role is not to find an exact analogy between Clanton's case and another case with either a similar or dissimilar verdict. Id. It is also not the Court's responsibility to fit this case “into a perfect continuum of past harms and past awards.” Id. at 567. Rather, the Court's role in reviewing awards in other cases is to determine if the award in the case before it “[is] roughly comparable to similar cases such that the instant award was not so beyond the pale as to constitute an abuse of discretion.” Id.[1]

         The Court begins by noting that, during the bench trial in this case, the Government was of little help when it came to determining an appropriate award for noneconomic damages. Clanton requested $15.25 million in noneconomic damages.[2] In response, the Government went for broke and argued that Clanton should not receive any damages at all (see Doc. 124, p. 152). In the alternative, the Government suggested that Clanton should receive no more than $300, 000 in noneconomic damages-$100, 000 for past pain and suffering, $100, 000 for future pain and suffering, and $100, 000 for shortened life expectancy, but nothing for emotional distress, loss of a normal life, or disfigurement.[3]

         The Government followed up its request for minimal noneconomic damages by citing to verdict summaries from six cases that it deemed comparable.[4] Unfortunately, however, the Government's cursory one-sentence explanation and misguided selection of cases were of little to no help. Two of the cases ended with verdicts for the defense and were therefore completely useless.[5] Two other cases were similarly useless because they ended in settlements.[6] See Maldonado v. Sinai Med. Grp., Inc., 706 F.Supp.2d 882, 887 n.6 (N.D. Ill. 2010) (declining to give substantial consideration to cases that ended in settlement because “many factors that influence settlement are unrelated to the damages the plaintiff has suffered, ” such as the parties' interest in an expeditious resolution and the strength of the plaintiff's liability evidence); Hardnick v. United States, No. 07 C 1330, 2009 WL 1810106, at *14 (N.D. Ill. June 25, 2009) (“[S]ettlements are ‘less useful than consideration of verdicts' because ‘[p]arties settle claims to avoid the uncertainty and expense of trial; and the amount settled for may bear little relation to the amount a jury might award upon finding a defendant liable.'” (quoting Kasongo v. United States, 523 F.Supp.2d 759, 804 n.39 (N.D. Ill. 2007))). The remaining two cases resulted in verdicts for the plaintiffs, but the information contained in the verdict summaries was so scant that it was impossible for the Court to draw a valid comparison with this case.[7]

         Simply put, both of the Government's suggested awards for noneconomic damages were wholly unreasonable given Nurse Jordan's glaring malpractice and Kevin Clanton's permanent and life-altering injuries that necessitated millions of dollars of past and future medical treatment. The undersigned put a great deal of thought into assessing how much Clanton should receive for noneconomic damages. In the absence of any plausible alternative from the Government, the Court ultimately awarded 1Clanton an amount close to what he asked for (Docs. 134, 150). More specifically, the Court awarded Clanton a total of $13.75 million in noneconomic damages, which the Court broke down into the following categories in order to satisfy the requirements of the Illinois periodic payment statute:

Past Pain and Suffering

$1, 500, 000

Past Emotional Distress

$ 1, 500, 000

Past Loss of Normal Life

$ 1, 500, 000

Disfigurement

$250, 000

Future Pain and Suffering

$3, 500, 000

Future Emotional Distress

$ 1, 000, 000

Future Loss of Normal Life

$ 2, 500, 000

Shortened Life Expectancy

$2, 000, 000

Total Noneconomic Damages

$13, 750, 000

(Docs. 134, 150).

         How does this damages award stack up to awards in similar cases? The parties submitted a total of nineteen cases that they deemed to be comparable to Clanton's case (Doc. 156-1; Doc. 160-1; Doc. 160-2; Doc. 160-3). For its part, the Government provided a list of eight cases that all involve kidney damage, kidney disease, dialysis, and/or kidney transplants, most of which was the result of negligent medical care (Doc. 156-1; Doc. 160-2). The awards for noneconomic damages in these cases are, predictably, relatively low. They range from $171, 000 to $2.7 million, with an average award of just over $1 million.

         In response, Clanton argues that cases involving kidney injury are not the only proper comparators; he argues that the Court should also look at cases that involve the transplant of any major organ (Doc. 160, pp. 8-9). Clanton also argues that in assessing the reasonableness of the noneconomic damages award, the Court should not take a gross award-comparison approach, but should use a ratio-comparison approach (Doc. 160, pp. 3-9). That is, Clanton wants the Court to look at the ratio of noneconomic damages to economic damages in the comparable cases. Clanton provided a list of eleven cases, eight of which involve kidney damage from negligent medical care, one that involves kidney damage from chemical exposure, one that involves lung damage from exposure to toxic fumes, and one that involves liver damage caused by medication (see Docs. 160-1, 160-3).[8] Unsurprisingly, the awards for noneconomic damages in these cases are, for the most part, much higher than the awards in the Government's cases. They range from $975, 000 to approximately $28.3 million, with an average award of over $7 million.

         For all but one case, the parties provided the Court with verdict summaries (see Docs. 160-1, 160-2) which, generally speaking, contain only bare-bones information. For example, most of the verdict summaries do not discuss the status of the plaintiff's health or what his or her daily life looked like before the injury. Some do not indicate the plaintiff's age, employment status, or the composition of the plaintiff's family. Most do not describe the precise nature of the injury, and some do not indicate whether the plaintiff underwent dialysis. Even when dialysis is mentioned, there is virtually no discussion of the effect the dialysis had on the plaintiff's life. The verdict summaries do not review the evidence presented regarding the plaintiff's pain and suffering, emotional distress, or loss of enjoyment of life. And most of the verdict summaries do not discuss the plaintiff's prognosis, what future medical treatment he or she will need, or the plaintiff's life expectancy.

         Additionally, a number of the verdict summaries indicate only that the noneconomic damages award was for “pain and suffering.” The Court was unable to discern if that meant past pain and suffering, or if that meant both past and future. The Court also could not tell if the juries considered but decided not to award other categories of noneconomic damages, such as emotional distress, loss of a normal life, disfigurement, and shortened life expectancy. Finally, twelve of the nineteen cases cited by the parties have verdicts that were awarded at least a full decade before the bench trial in this case (see Doc. 160-3). In fact, four of those awards are close to twenty years old (see Doc. 160-3). These awards would undoubtedly be worth substantially more today due to inflation.

         Simply put, the lack of details and the age of some of the verdicts made it difficult, if not impossible, for the Court to assess how comparable the cases really are to Clanton's. The Court exhaustively searched Westlaw, Lexis, and the internet in an effort to find more information to make the cases more useful comparators. These efforts were met with mixed results, but the Court was generally able to piece together the basic facts of each case. The Court also consulted an online inflation calculator to get a general idea of what some of the older verdicts would be worth in today's dollars. See EEOC v. AIC Sec. Investigations, Ltd., 55 F.3d 1276, 1286 (7th Cir. 1995) (“Comparability of awards must be adjusted for the changing value of money over time.”); Tullis v. Townley Eng'g & Mfg. Co., 243 F.3d 1058, 1069 (7th Cir. 2001) (converting older verdict to current dollars before assessing the verdict for comparison purposes).[9] Finally, the Court searched for reported cases that the parties had overlooked or that had been published after the parties submitted their briefs; the Court was able to identify two additional cases that it deemed comparable: Campano v. United States, No. 15-00439 KSC, 2018 WL 1182571 (D. Haw. Mar. 7, 2018) and Kunz v. Little Co. of Mary Hosp., 869 N.E.2d 328 (Ill.App.Ct. 2007).

         The Court was left with a total of twenty comparator cases.[10] It is readily apparent, however, that many of those cases provide little to no guidance regarding an appropriate award for Clanton and/or skew the Court's sense of what an appropriate award might be. Thus, the Court will begin its discussion of the comparable cases by identifying which cases can be excluded from its consideration.

         A. Cases Excluded from the Court's Consideration

         To begin with, the Court disagrees with Clanton that it should look beyond cases that involve kidney injuries to cases that involve a transplant of any major organ. Clanton obviously wants the Court to consider Solis v. BASF (which involved lung failure) and Sanchez v. Parke-Davis (which involved liver failure) because the plaintiffs received extremely large awards for noneconomic damages: $28.3 million and $19 million, respectively. Awards of that size certainly make Clanton's own award appear well within the realm of reasonableness. In support of his position, Clanton argues that “[i]t is not the specific injury that makes a case similar, but rather the impact the injury had and will have on the plaintiff's life” (Doc. 160, pp. 6-7). He claims the impact on the plaintiff is similar, regardless of whether a kidney, lung, or other organ is being transplanted, because

[e]ach plaintiff endures the risks and fear of not receiving a future transplant; the uncertainty about how long the transplanted organ will last; the physical pain, scarring, and emotional distress associated with medical treatment (surgeries, a lifetime of anti-rejection medicines, hospital stays, doctor visits); the knowledge of a shortened life; and the life-altering impact of living with a constant sense of impending doom.

(Id. at p. 9).

         Even assuming these general similarities exist, it seems to the Court that there are significant differences between kidneys and other transplantable organs. As one law journal article stated:

[K]idneys are unique among the solid organs due to the combination of the low risk of living donation, the feasibility of extended waiting times while on dialysis, and Medicare coverage of dialysis and transplantation for kidney patients. . . . [B]ecause humans are born with two kidneys but need only one to survive, living donation is feasible. Although living donation is possible for other organs as well, the donor risks are higher than with kidney donation. In addition, extended waiting times for those in need of kidney transplantation are medically feasible, due to dialysis, and financially feasible, due to Medicare coverage of end-stage renal disease (ESRD) treatment, which includes dialysis and kidney transplantation. In contrast, Medicare covers the treatment (including transplantation) of other organ diseases only if the patient already has Medicare due to age or disability.

Philip J. Cook & Kimberly D. Krawiec, A Primer on Kidney Transplantation: Anatomy of the Shortage, 77 Law & Contemp. Probs. 1, at *3 (2014).

         The Court believes that the availability of dialysis for patients suffering from kidney failure is a distinction that cannot be overstated. Dialysis can prolong and potentially save the lives of patients who would otherwise have died waiting for a kidney transplant.[11] But while dialysis is “life-extending, ” it is not “life-bettering”-it inflicts a multitude of physical, psychological, financial, professional, and social consequences. Lara Rosen, et al., Addressing the Shortage of Kidneys for Transplantation: Purchase and Allocation Through Chain Auctions, 36 J. Health Politics, Policy, & Law 717, 718 (2011).[12] In this instance, a significant portion of the noneconomic damages awarded to Clanton was intended to compensate him for his pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of a normal life, and disfigurement associated with dialysis treatments.

         Patients suffering from lung or liver failure do not receive dialysis treatments, and the Court is unsure whether they nonetheless face consequences that are similar in kind and degree to those faced by dialysis patients (see Doc. 160). Consequently, the Court is unable to say that the physical pain and emotional distress associated with kidney failure is sufficiently akin to liver failure or lung failure to justify using Solis and Sanchez as reference points for assessing the reasonableness of Clanton's noneconomic damages.

         Even if the Court reached the opposite conclusion, the Court would not consider the verdicts in Solis and Sanchez, because both cases ultimately ended in settlements.[13] As previously indicated in this Order, settlements are of little help in determining an appropriate noneconomic damages award. See supra pp. 5-6. See also Bravo v. United States, 532 F.3d 1154, 1166 (11th Cir. 2008) (explaining “[t]here are a number of reasons that a verdict or award entered at the trial stage may not realistically reflect what is actually going on in the world of damage awards, ” including that “the parties will settle after the verdict or award is announced for a more realistic amount which is not disclosed” but the “phantom awards that might well have been set aside as excessive on appeal, or even in further proceedings at the trial stage, are left to haunt the judgment books.”)

         The Court now turns to the eighteen comparable cases that involved kidney injuries. First and foremost, cases that provide only a total verdict amount but do not break down the award into noneconomic and economic components are useless. A case that does not specify the amount of noneconomic damages awarded to the plaintiff cannot possibly provide any guidance to the Court regarding an appropriate award in this case. There are two cases that fall into this category: the Graham case, which was cited by both parties, [14] and Talbot v. Nissanka, which was cited by the Government.

         Second, cases in which the award for noneconomic damages is confined, either in whole or in part, by a statutory cap are not particularly useful because Clanton's award is not limited by any cap. There is no way to tell whether an award at the statutory cap reflects the fact finder's assessment of the value of the noneconomic injury or whether it simply reflects the legislatively-imposed limit on damages for that injury. There are three kidney cases that involve statutory caps: Gutierrez v. Vargas, Mamea v. United States, and Campano v. United States. In Gutierrez, the plaintiff was awarded a total of $500, 000 for past and future pain and suffering, [15] which was the statutory cap on noneconomic damages imposed by Florida law at the time of the verdict. Fla. Stat. § 766.118(2) (2011).[16] In Mamea and Campano, which are FTCA cases out of Hawaii, the awards for physical pain and suffering were statutorily capped at $375, 000. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 663- 8.7. In Mamea, the district judge simply awarded the plaintiff a total of $1.25 million “for physical pain and suffering, emotional distress, scarring and disfigurement, loss of enjoyment of life, and loss of life expectancy, ” without mentioning the cap on pain and suffering. See 781 F.Supp.2d 1025, 1055 (D. Haw. 2011). In Campano, the judge awarded the plaintiff $1.875 million for noneconomic damages, and explicitly indicated that $375, 000 was for “pain and suffering” and the remainder was for “mental anguish, disfigurement, loss of enjoyment of life, and loss of consortium.” See No. CV 15-00439 KSC, 2018 WL 1182571, at *28 (D. Haw. Mar. 7, 2018).

         The Court has no way to know the extent to which the statutory caps influenced the noneconomic damages awards in Gutierrez, Mamea, and Campano and whether those plaintiffs would have received larger awards absent the caps. Consequently, these three cases are of limited value when it comes to calculating an appropriate award for Clanton. See Hardnick v. United States, No. 07 C 1330, 2009 WL 1810106, at *14 (N.D. Ill. June 25, 2009), as amended (July 1, 2009) (FTCA case in which the court declined to consider comparable case involving a statutory cap on damages).

         Another case that does not seem to realistically reflect what is going on in the world of damage awards is Gonzales v. Pla. This verdict summary indicates that the defendant doctor was covered by an insurance policy that had a $1 million limit. At trial, plaintiff's counsel demanded the policy limit of $1 million for noneconomic damages, plus his client's medical expenses. While the jury was deliberating, the parties entered into a $150, 000-$950, 000 high-low agreement within the policy limit. The jury awarded Gonzales the amount he asked for, which was reduced to $950, 000 in accordance with the parties' agreement. Based on these facts, the Court believes the award in Gonzales quite obviously reflects the limits of the insurance policy rather than what the jury truly believed Gonzales's injuries were worth. Consequently, this case is not particularly instructive when it comes to calculating an appropriate award for Clanton. See Bravo, 532 F.3d at 1166 (“Sometimes the limits of the defendant's assets or of its insurance policy make most of an award meaningless . . . .”).

         The third category of cases that are of little help to the Court are cases in which the facts materially differ from this case. As the Court sees it, two cases fall into this category: Phillips v. Eckerd and Davis v. Forsyth Chiropractic Center.

         In Phillips, the plaintiff was born with a single kidney and had a transplant in her early twenties. She began experiencing mild acute rejection several years after the transplant and was prescribed a steroid to reverse the rejection. The pharmacist mistakenly instructed her to take five times the amount prescribed by the doctor, and the overdose caused her kidney to fail. She was forced to undergo two additional transplants within four years of the overdose. The overdose also clotted off her superior vena cava and made it unusable, which meant she could not go on dialysis. She also could not have another transplant. So when her third kidney transplant inevitably fails, Phillips will die. Given that Phillips had serious kidney problems before the events that gave rise to her lawsuit, and that she faced a prognosis far more dire than Clanton's, it seems that her noneconomic damages are of a flavor quite different than Clanton's. Therefore, Phillips's noneconomic damages award is not a particularly strong reference point for determining an appropriate award in this case.

         As for Davis, this case involved major medical conditions aside from renal failure. The plaintiff used Chinese herbal supplements that contained aristolochic acid, which led to renal failure and a kidney transplant, as well as bladder cancer that required the plaintiff to have her bladder, ureters, uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes removed. The plaintiff also was subsequently diagnosed with and died from metastatic cancer, which she attributed to the immunosuppressive medication regimen necessitated by the kidney transplant. Based on these facts, Davis's noneconomic damage award presumably compensated her, at least in part, for physical pain and emotional distress suffered as a result of medical conditions that Clanton did not have. It is impossible to say what, if any, portion of the award was related solely to her renal failure. Thus, this award is of limited value when it comes to calculating an appropriate award for Clanton.

         B. Cases Deemed Comparable by the Court

         The Court is left with ten cases: Brown v. Werther, Canterino v. Kumar, Plasencia v. Echnique, Kunz v. Little Co. of Mary Hosp., Maynard v. Reich, Meyer v. Ackerman, Barker v. Union Pacific R.R. Co., Puerta v. Chavez, Perry v. Garchitorena, and King v. Goldschmidt. A brief summary of the facts of each case follows, with the cases listed in order of award size for noneconomic damages.

1. Brown v. Werther
A 52-year-old barber was diagnosed with salmonella septicemia, which is a bacterial infection in the bloodstream. He was hospitalized for several weeks while he received treatment for the salmonella infection, viral hepatitis B, and sarcoidosis. Following his discharge and the completion of his antibiotics, his doctors failed to follow up with blood and stool cultures to confirm the salmonella had been eradicated. The continuing infection caused a ruptured mycotic aneurysm that required Brown to undergo emergency surgery to revascularize his major blood vessels, as well as, “loss of kidney, renal failure, [and] probable need for dialysis.”
The jury awarded Brown $7 million in noneconomic damages ($3 million for past pain and suffering, $3 million for future pain and suffering, $500, 000 for past loss of consortium, and $500, 000 for future loss of consortium). The trial was in June 1998, and according to an online inflation calculator, the verdict would have been worth approximately $10.4 million at the time of Clanton's trial in October 2016.
2. Canterino v. Kumar
After suffering a heart attack, a 76-year old male was brought to the hospital where he underwent testing that entailed the use of contrast material, which caused his creatinine levels to rise. Although the cardiologist agreed not to perform surgery before Canterino's creatinine levels had returned to baseline, he did not stick to the agreement. Immediately after surgery, Canterino's kidney function started to decline, and the kidneys eventually failed. He also developed residual sepsis. He spent nearly four months in the hospital after the surgery. Afterwards, he required dialysis treatments three times a week for the final three and a half years of his life. His widow testified that his condition and the dialysis process greatly diminished the quality of his life; he no longer enjoyed drawing, singing, or recreational walking, and he relinquished most of his independence. The jury awarded the plaintiff $9, 100, 000, including $7, 000, 000 for past pain and suffering, $2, 000, 000 for medical bills, and $100, 000 for pecuniary loss.
3. Plasencia v. Echnique
A 38-year-old man with two young children had a urinalysis that showed significant blood and protein in his urine, which are common signs of kidney disease. His disease went undiagnosed by his doctor and two urologists. Two and a half years after the abnormal urinalysis, Plasencia went to the emergency room where he was diagnosed with end stage kidney disease. He received a kidney transplant at some point thereafter. The jury found Plasencia 1% negligent and awarded him $5, 248, 514, including $3 million for past pain and suffering, $1, 727, 514 for past and future medical expenses, and $521, 000 for past and future lost earnings. An appeal was filed, and Plasencia settled with the defendants. The total of all the settlements came to more than $2.1 million.
The Court does not know if Plasencia's kidney failure could have been avoided, or at least delayed, if his conditions had been diagnosed and treated sooner. The Court also doesn't know if Plasencia received any dialysis treatments, and if so, the specifics of the pain and suffering that he endured or how his life was affected. What future medical treatment Plasencia will need, his prognosis, or his life expectancy are also unknown.
Notably, it does not appear that any damages for future pain and suffering were awarded, and the Court does not know if they were even considered. Finally, this verdict was handed down in May 2003, and according to an online inflation calculator, the award for past pain and suffering would have been worth approximately $3.95 million at the time of Clanton's trial in October 2016.
4. Kunz v. Little Co. of Mary Hosp.
A 75-year old woman mistakenly received a prolonged course of gentamicin due to medical negligence, and her kidneys failed as a result. At the time of trial, she was 81-years-old and had spent five years on dialysis. There was expert testimony at trial that her life expectancy was 9.1 years and she would require dialysis treatments for the rest of her life. The jury awarded Kunz $3.2 million in noneconomic damages ($1.9 million for past and future pain and suffering, $1 million for loss of a normal life, and $300, 000 for disfigurement). The trial court refused to permit the jury to award damages for past and future medical bills. This ruling was ...

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