U.S. District Court Denies Motion for Reconsideration in Medical Malpractice Case and Judgment of $31 Million

The U.S. District Court judge in Chicago handled a bench trial medical malpractice case under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). The result was a judgment in favor of a plaintiff that included $13.75 million in noneconomic damages for what the court described as “glaring” medical malpractice that caused the plaintiff to suffer “complete and irreversible failure of both kidneys.”

The U.S. District Court Judge Nancy J. Rosenstengel denied the federal government’s motion for reconsideration.

The plaintiff, Kevin Clanton, spent 31 months on dialysis before receiving a kidney transplant. The court stated, “It is reasonably expected that Clanton will spend at least two decades on an extensive daily regimen of anti-rejection and immunosuppressive medications, he will endure two additional rounds of dialysis that will last at least 3-5 years each and he will undergo one, perhaps two more kidney transplants, not to mention periodic hospitalizations, counseling services and a dizzying array of medications, doctor appointments and lab tests.”

In the government’s post-trial motion, it was argued that the award for noneconomic damages was excessive. In support for that position, “the parties provided the court with verdict summaries which, generally speaking, contain only bare-bones information.”

Judge Rosenstengel concluded that she “exhaustively searched Westlaw and Lexis and the internet in an effort to find more information to make the cases more useful comparators.” Judge Rosenstengel concluded that the $13.75 million award for noneconomic damages was not excessive under the gross award-comparison approach. This was confirmed by a ratio-comparison analysis.

The purpose of consulting the damages awards in other cases is to facilitate a more thoughtful, disciplined and informed award. The court’s decision said that caution should be the byword when looking at past awards because they offer at best, a rough approximation of damage awards. They do not establish a range beyond which awards are necessarily excessive. Instead, they merely provide a reference point that assists the court in assessing reasonableness.

In this case, the parties submitted a total of 19 cases that they deemed to be comparable to Clanton’s case. For all but one case, the parties provided the judge with verdict summaries which, the court commented, contained only bare-bones information. For example, most of the verdict summaries did not discuss the status of the plaintiff’s health or what his or her daily life looked like before the injury. Some of the verdict summaries did not indicate the plaintiff’s age, employment status or the composition of the plaintiff’s family.

Based on all these considerations, the evidence presented at trial, and the comparable cases, the court still believed that an award of $13.75 million in noneconomic damages was justified and “not beyond the pale.” A ratio comparison confirmed the court’s evaluation of Mr. Clanton’s noneconomic damages. In fact, Clanton’s award for noneconomic damages, $13.75 million was smaller than his reasonable medical expenses which were $17.279 million. The resulting ratio of 0.80 to 1 was smaller than the ratio in the 9 cases that reflected a strong, positive relationship between the noneconomic damages and medical expenses. Accordingly, a ratio comparison confirmed that Clanton’s noneconomic damage award was consistent with comparative cases and thus it was determined to be reasonable.

Clanton v. United States, 2018 U.S. Dist. Lexis 126047 (July 27, 2018).

On November 7, 2019 the United States Court of Appeals reversed the district court to properly assess Mr. Clanton’s comparative negligence under Illinois law. The case therefore has been remanded back to the district court for further proceedings. Clanton v. United States, No. 18-3060.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling medical malpractice lawsuits, wrongful death cases, hospital negligence cases, birth trauma injury lawsuits and traumatic brain injury cases for individuals, families and loved ones who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of the carelessness or negligence of a medical provider for more than 40 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Winfield, Olympia Fields, Bensenville, South Barrington, South Holland, Chicago Heights, Blue Island, Rosemont, Schaumburg, Chicago (Wicker Park, Ukrainian Village, Lincoln Park, Lincoln Square, Rogers Park, Bronzeville, South Shore, Garfield Park, Lawndale, Gresham, Little Italy, Greek Town), Lake Forest, Lake Zurich, Gurnee, Cary, Crystal Lake and Bolingbrook, Ill.

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