A jury award of $5.2 million to a man whose healthy left kidney was removed by doctors instead of his cancerous right one was cut to $256,600 Monday by a judge applying last week's California Supreme Court opinion upholding a $250,000 general damage limit in malpractice cases.
The additional $6,600 tacked onto the $250,000 limit was the amount the jury had awarded for medical expenses incurred by 64-year-old Harry Jordan after the bungled surgery in Long Beach Community Hospital in November, 1982.
Lawyers for Jordan, a resident of Huntington Beach, said they will appeal the ruling and may take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Under the state Supreme Court ruling, handed down last Thursday, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert C. Nye had no choice but to slash the award verdict returned by jurors on Friday after hearing nearly three months of testimony in the case.
The judge applied the high court's ruling further and ordered defendants to pay the first $97,000 of any of Jordan's future medical expenses not covered by insurance. Jurors had awarded Jordan that sum in their verdict last week.
The jury's award broke down to about $5.1 million fo past and future non-economic damages (pain and suffering) suffered by Jordan and his wife, Miriam, with $625,000 of that amount specified for her. No damages were awarded for loss of earnings or business.
James J. Pagliuso, an attorney for Jordan, said Monday the situation is "unprecedented." Although the law upheld by the high court has been on the books since 1975, it has been "basically not applied by trial judges until now," Pagliuso said.
"Most people felt it was unconstitutional or were waiting to see."
The jury verdict held four of six doctors and one of two medical groups sued by Jordan liable for damages. Long Beach Community Hospital was cleared of responsibility.