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California Verdicts

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Plaintiff claimed surgery ruined future earnings and lifestyle

Amount:

$7,619,257

Type:

Verdict-Plaintiff

State:

California

Venue:

Los Angeles County

Court:

Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Los Angeles

Injury Type(s):

other-adhesions; other-scar and/or disfigurement; abdomen; abdomen-perforation; gastrointestinal/digestive-bowel/colon/intestine, perforation

Case Type:

Medical Malpractice - Surgeon, Hospital, Surgical Error

Case Name:

Dionne Licudine v. Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Brendan J. Carroll M.D., Ankur Gupta M.D., Regents of the University of California, and Does 1 through 100, No. BC499153

Date:

June 28, 2017

Parties

Plaintiff(s):

Dionne Licudine (Female, 22 Years)

Plaintiff Attorney(s):

Howard A. Kapp; Law Offices of Howard A. Kapp; Los Angeles, CA, for Dionne Licudine

Plaintiff Expert(s):

Graham Sherr; J.D.; Employability; Los Angeles, CA called by: Howard A. Kapp ■ Enrique Vega; M.S.; Vocational Rehabilitation; Woodland Hills, CA called by: Howard A. Kapp ■ Lawrence May; M.D.; Internal Medicine; Tarzana, CA called by: Howard A. Kapp

Defendant(s):

Ankur Gupta, 

Brendan J. Carroll, 

Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, 

Regents of the University of California

Defense Attorney(s):

Raymond R. Moore; Moore McLennan, LLP; Glendale, CA, for Ankur Gupta, Brendan J. Carroll, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Regents of the University of California

Defendant Expert(s):

Kyle McEntee; Schools/Education; Raleigh, NC called by: Raymond R. Moore ■ Thomas Hedge, Jr.; Physical Medicine; Northridge, CA called by: Raymond R. Moore ■ Rudolph Bedford; Gastroenterology; Santa Monica, CA called by: Raymond R. Moore

Facts:

On Feb. 9, 2012, plaintiff Dionne Licudine, 22, a college student in her senior year at the University of Southern California, underwent a laparoscopic cholecystectomy for the treatment of gallstones. The procedure was started by the attending physician, Dr. Brendan Carroll, and a fifth-year surgical resident, Dr. Ankur Gupta. During the first step of the common procedure, a Veress needle (a spring-loaded needle used to create pneumoperitoneum for laparoscopic surgery) was inserted through the umbilicus to inflate the abdomen with carbon dioxide. A trocar was then inserted during the second step so that a camera could be placed to aid in the procedure. However, once the camera was inserted, an accumulation of blood was noted in the abdomen, which indicated a life threatening situation. As a result, Licudine's procedure was converted to a laparotomy, and a vascular surgeon was called to do a repair. Licudine was subsequently left with abdominal adhesions and a scar. Licudine sued Carroll; Gupta; the hospital, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center; and the sponsor of the Cedars-Sinai residency program through the University of California, Los Angeles, the Regents of the University of California. The Regents was ultimately dropped from the case, and Carroll was dismissed in exchange for a stipulation that Cedars-Sinai was responsible for his negligence, if any. However, there was no testimony that Carroll was negligent. The matter proceeded to trial, and in 2014, the jury awarded Licudine $1,045,000 in total damages, including $30,000 in noneconomic damages and $1,015,000 in economic losses. However, plaintiff's counsel moved for to set aside damages award as inadequate, seeking additur or, in the alternative, a new trial. Defense counsel also moved the set aside the damages award and for judgment notwithstanding the verdict on economic losses. The trial judge granted both sides' motions for new trial on damages, but denied the defense's motion for JNOV on economic losses. Defense counsel appealed the trial court's denial of the motion for JNOV on economic losses, claiming that the economic losses were zero. The new trial orders were ultimately affirmed on appeal. Thus, a new trial on damages was ordered.

Injury:

Licudine suffered a perforation of the right iliac vein, requiring vascular repair surgery, which was performed by the plaintiff's treating physician. As a result, Licudine was in the Intensive Care Unit for one week and remained in the hospital for a total of 25 days. Licudine was left with a 6-inch scar that extends from her navel to her breastbone. She also claimed that she may suffer from abdominal adhesions due to the puncture. Licudine, who was a senior college student at USC, was a coxswain and team captain on the rowing team. She was on a full athletic scholarship and, as is typical for coxswains, Licudine was petite at approximately 5 feet tall and weighing 95 pounds. At the time of her injury, she was ranked number three nationally. Licudine was ultimately able to rejoin her teammates one month after the subject surgery and receive a victory in the San Diego Crew Classic. She was also nominated as USC's female Trojan athlete of the year in 2012. In addition, Licudine was accepted at several law schools after graduating from USC. However, she claimed her ongoing medical struggles have forced her to delay enrolling. The USC coach testified at both trials that Licudine was nationally ranked and a candidate for the 2012 Olympics at the time of her injury. The injury occurred in early February 2012, approximately four months before her anticipated graduation and her hoped-for opportunity to get selected for the Olympic team. As a result, Licudine had deferred her application to law school in the hope that would have gone to the London Olympics in 2012. Licudine claimed that her scar has caused severe emotional distress, as she was a young college student who often wore two-piece bathing suits for rowing activities and/or during recreation. She also claimed that she continuously suffers from abdominal pain of a six out of 10 with unpredictable spikes to 10 out of 10, which required the use of narcotic medication. Although she has a life expectancy of another 50-plus years, she contended that due to her injury, she may one day suffer a complete bowel obstruction, which would require more surgery. Licudine had been accepted to four law schools for the 2013 school year, and she accepted admission at Suffolk Law School, in Boston, due to its proximity to crew-rowing activities. However, she claimed that her unpredictable "bad days" made her unable to commit to any job or educational process. Licudine alleged that she would not be able to work or attend law school due to her ongoing pain and disability associated with abdominal adhesions caused by the surgical malpractice. Thus, Licudine sought recovery of $2.5 million to $7.6 million in lost earning potential, depending on the circumstances. She also sought recovery of medical costs, and damages for her past and future pain and suffering. Defense counsel argued that Licudine's problems were minor and possibly aggravated by mental stresses. Thus, counsel contended that, with a bit of tweaking of her medication and perhaps some psychological assistance, Licudine should be able to attend law school and work as an attorney thereafter. The defense's physical medicine and rehabilitation expert opined that there was no medical reason why Licudine could not attend and complete law school. However, defense counsel argued that Licudine's undergraduate grade-point average and LSAT scores placed her in the bottom 25th percentile of her entering class at a lower tiered law school and as such, it was highly speculative as to whether Licudine would complete law school or pass the bar exam in California, the second most difficult in the United States, where she intended to practice, or even in Massachusetts. In addition, defense counsel argued that all of Licudine's alleged economic damages were speculative.

Result:

The jury on the retrial determined that Licudine's damages totaled $7,619,257.

Dionne Licudine: $4,000 Personal Injury: past economic loss; $5,340,357 Personal Injury: future economic loss; $196,600 Personal Injury: past non-economic loss; $2,078,300 Personal Injury: future non-economic loss

Actual Award:

$5,594,357

Trial Information:

Judge:

David S. Cunningham, III

Demand:

None reported

Offer:

$350,000

Trial Length:

6  days

Jury Vote:

11-1 as to past economic loss; 10-2 as to future economic loss; 12-0 as to past non-economic loss; 10-2 as to future non-economic loss

Post Trial:

The verdict will be reduced, pursuant to MICRA, to $5,594,357.

Editor's Comment:

This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiff's and defense counsel.