Medical Malpractice News Flash – Widow of Wrongful Death Case Only to Receive $1.6 million

Medical Malpractice News Flash – Widow of Wrongful Death Case Only to Receive $1.6 million


Modesto, California ( — It seems that there are more cases of medical malpractice today than in the past, and how can this be with the technological advancements of our time? The answer is doctor’s negligence. This is exemplified in a case involving the Stinnett couple of Modesto, California. On the afternoon of January 6, 2002, Mr. Stanley Stinnett, 49, was riding his Harley Davidson motorcycle when a dog leaped out in his path causing him to crash. He was airlifted to Memorial Medical Center where doctors found six broken ribs and complicated respiratory problems. After only five days, Stinnett’s doctor told him to go home and heal.

But before Doctor Tony Tam could discharge Mr. Stinnett, he passed away, chocking on his own vomit. According to the Stinnett’s attorney Stewart Tabak of Stockton, X-rays taken four hours before his death showed Stinnett had one gallon of liquid backed up in his stomach, which the Dr. Tam never drained. The 12 jurors concurred that Stinnett’s death was unnecessary, stating that Dr. Tam was negligent in his practice. The jury awarded $2.5 million in economic damages and $6 million in compensatory damages to Mrs. Stinnett, but unfortunately and somewhat unjustly, there is a 1975 law which caps non-economic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits at $250,000. Therefore, Holly Stinnett will most likely only receive about $1.6 million of the suggested amounts.

It is California law, which places a cap on non-economic, damages for medical malpractice cases. Cal. Civ. Code § 3333.2 (West 1997). Non-economic damages, defined as compensation for pain, suffering, inconvenience, physical impairment, disfigurement, and other non-pecuniary injury, are limited to $250,000. Id. The cap applies whether the case is for injury or death, and it allows only one $250,000 recovery in a wrongful death case. Yates v. Pollock, 194 Cal. App. 3d 195, 239 Cal. Rptr. 383 (1987). In many of the medical malpractice and negligent cases, the compensation is not about the amount of money received after a death. Yet, it seems wholly unfair that this young woman was made a widow at only 38 years of age because of a doctor’s failure to treat her husband properly; and even more so that the full amount of damages will not be awarded to her because of her loss.

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