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FEATURED ARTICLE

ECONOMIST’S TESTIMONY ASSISTS JURY IN $70.9 MILLION AWARD TO 9-YEAR-OLD BOY


Robert W. Johnson & Associates was retained to provide economic testimony quantifying: (a) the present and future cash values of lost wages and fringe benefits and (b) the present and future cash values of medical and attendant services to the plaintiff.

Location: San Francisco, California

Case: Michael Cook, by his Guardian ad litem, Cara M. Cook v. Stanford Health Services and Palo Alto Medical Clinic.

Court: Court of the State of California for the City and County of San Francisco, No. 324905.

Plaintiff’s Attorneys: David B. Baum of the Law Offices of Baum & Blake, San Francisco, California.

Judge: Robert L. Dandero

Case Synopsis: The plaintiff was born at Stanford University Hospital in 1994, and was diagnosed with a genetic disease, phenylketonuria (PKU), in 2000. As a result of the hospital and pediatricians not diagnosing the PKU, Michael developed permanent brain damage and a need for lifetime care. Baum argued that the hospital failed to timely perform the required tests, which screen for metabolic disorders in newborns.

Expert Consultation: In this case, Mr. Johnson first testified to Michael Cook’s lost earnings capacity. Since the child had no earnings history, Mr. Johnson based Michael’s earnings capacity on an average college graduate and a person with a Master’s degree. The total present values of lost wages and fringe benefits yielded between $2.4 and $2.8 million.

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Secondly, he testified to the present value of his future medical and attendant services. The total present value of these services over his life expectancy was over $5.8 million. The total future values ranged from $84.5 to $87.8 million.

Results: On September 26, 2003, the jury rendered a $70.9 million future value verdict against the defendants Stanford Health Services and Palo Alto Medical Clinic. The verdict includes $56.3 million for future medical and attendant services and $14.1 million for lost wages and fringe benefits. The jury gave these amounts a present value of $6.3 and $1.8 million, respectively. Michael was also awarded $500,000 for non-economic damages of which he was only able to collect $250,000. California’s Medical Injury Compensation Act (MICRA) caps non-economic damages at $250,000.

The jurors found the Palo Medical Clinic 65% responsible for the damages and Stanford Health Services responsible for the other 35%. Michael Cook and the third defendant, the Regents of the University of California, reached a $500,000 settlement after the trial began, per counsel.

Attorney Comments: “This medical malpractice case involved complex evidence to prove that approximately 80% of the future economic damages came from future medical care. Mr. Johnson was able to convince the jury that his future medical expense figures were accurate and reasonable although they were 30 times greater than the number put up by the defense’s economist. Mr. Johnson was able to convey his message by using simple, common sense analogies which played a major role in achieving such a satisfying verdict for the plaintiff.”