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Conrad Murray and The Effect of Tort Reform on Medical Malpractice in California

A Los Angeles jury convicted Michael Jackson’s personal physician, Conrad Murray, of involuntary manslaughter. The prosecution alleged that Conrad Murray administered Propofol to Michael Jackson while making telephone calls and sending text messages. They also charged that he rendered ineffective resuscitative aid to Jackson by administering CPR on the bed rather than transferring him to a proper surface.
In the Conrad Murray case, a jury convicted Dr. Murray of a crime. However, often physicians are able to escape responsibility because tort reform has severely impacted the law of medical malpractice in California. Criminal prosecution because of medical mistakes is very rare. The common forum for such a case is in civil courts, and patients or their family members seek recourse against their doctors in medical malpractice cases.

For example, Heimanson & Wolf currently represents the daughter of a patient who underwent dental implants and died after she was given Propofol. The daughter contends that the anesthesiologist was on his cell phone while administering the Propofol and, like Conrad Murray, he also rendered ineffective aid to his patient when she went into respiratory arrest as a result of an overdose of the anesthesia.
In medical malpractice cases like these, patients and their family members are surprised to learn that the law in California places a cap on the damages they can recover. The most they can recover for their pain and suffering or even for the loss of their family member is $250,000. This cap has not been adjusted even for inflation since it was enacted in the 1970’s.
As to the case involving our client who lost her mother as a result of the improper monitoring of another patient on Propofol, the only way that she will avoid the $250,000 cap is to prove that the physicians involved committed a battery. In this case, the daughter contends that her mother never even wanted her dentist and anesthesiologist to use Propofol; she had requested oral conscious sedation for the procedure. As a result, the daughter has alleged a battery cause of action as well. Trial is scheduled to take place in January 2012.

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