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Kaiser settles family's lawsuit parents blame the hospital for their son's permanent disability after birth.
By Ramon Coronado -- Bee Staff Writer - (Published October 10, 2002)

A Kaiser hospital in Sacramento has agreed to pay $2.25 million to settle a lawsuit alleging its staff neglected to tell a Carmichael couple their newborn son had a treatable medical condition that later injured him permanently.

On Jan. 12, 1997, routine tests showed Carl and Anthea London's baby had low blood sugar levels, but they were allowed to take him home 24 hours after his birth at the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center on Morse Avenue.

The following day baby Michael suffered seizures and was readmitted to the hospital.

He later was diagnosed with nesidioblastosis, a disease of the pancreas. But by that time, brain damage had occurred, according to Sacramento Superior Court documents.

Today, Michael is 5, legally blind, suffers from a permanent developmental disability, has diabetes and still experiences seizures.

Kaiser officials declined to comment Wednesday on the settlement, which was signed by a judge the day before.

The bulk of the $2.25 million that Kaiser agreed to pay is for medical expenses and the loss of expected wages, with $250,000 for what is commonly known as "pain and suffering."

As a condition of the settlement, the London family said they were barred from discussing details of the case. Their San Francisco attorney, John Echeverria, also declined to comment.

But according to one legal expert, the settlement may be lower than it would have been because of a state law passed more than 20 years ago that places a cap on non-economic damages.

"Anyone injured like this is going to be feeling pain and suffering for a lifetime," said Lawrence Levine, a professor at McGeorge School of Law.

"A 20-year-old cap on pain and suffering is limiting recovery to a dollar value based on the mid-1970s. Someone is being shortchanged here," Levine said.

Aside from Michael's injuries, which limit his learning abilities to a boy half his age, court records show he also may live a shortened life.

"As a result of his multiple medical difficulties, the probability is that Michael will have some limitation of life expectancy," said Jerome P. Mednick, a child neurologist who evaluated the boy for the suit.

According to Mednick, Anthea London had a normal pregnancy and there were no signs of complications at birth.

The infant weighed 10 pounds 8 ounces and his blood was tested for sugar levels because of his large size, court records said.

"Carl and Anthea London were not informed of the consequences of the low blood sugar levels that Kaiser had detected," court papers said.

Mednick reported that Michael's daily routine now calls for blood sugar checks six times a day. He has insulin with his breakfast and his blood is last tested before he goes to sleep, the doctor said.

Michael walks with a cane and has difficulty with fine motor skills. He can't hold a pencil or draw a vertical or horizontal line, Mednick said.

Citing his "visual problems and probable or possible difficulties," Mednick wrote that Michael "will certainly be able to learn, but this in conjunction with his seizure disorder will make employability as an adult suspect and probably unlikely."

Levine said victims like Michael show why California's pain and suffering cap should be reevaluated. The $250,000 cap translates into less than $84,000 of today's dollar, he said.

"The solution is to raise the cap to an index that is closer to today's cost of living," Levine said. But such a change is not expected anytime soon, he added.

The cap originally was enacted in 1975 after doctors and their insurance companies complained that the state's trial lawyers were putting them out of business with runaway medical malpractice lawsuits.

Since then, legislation has been proposed nearly every year to amend the cap, but all the proposals have died, Levine said.

"With every passing day victims are getting less and less, but changing things is a real controversy because you have trial lawyers on one side and the doctors' insurers on the other," Levine said.

About the Writer

The Bee's Ramon Coronado can be reached at (916) 321-1191 or


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