Case Style: Robyn Frankel v. Palo Alto Medical Foundation Medical Group, Inc.
Case Number: 1-08-CV-103310
Judge: Carol Overton
Court: Superior Court, Santa Clara County, California
Plaintiff's Attorney: Jeff Mitchell, David Bovino, Summer Woodson and Marcy Railsback, Law Offices of Bovino & Associates, Aspen, Colorado and New York, New York
Defendant's Attorney: Frank E. Schimaneck and Susan Foe
Description: Forty-eight year old Robyn Frankel has suffered migraine headaches for most of her life. When the headaches flared up in mid-2006, she sought help from the doctors at Palo Alto Foundation Medical Group (PAFMG). Shortly after having a number of MRIs and other non-invasive tests, a diagnostic cerebral angiogram was ordered and performed at Stanford Hospital & Clinics to rule out certain conditions. Such a test carries certain recognized risks, and as a result of the procedure Robyn suffered a series of strokes that left her a quadriplegic with impaired speech and vision and in need of round the clock assistance.
The crux of the case was that Robyn never should have had the test. It was unnecessarily risky, not indicated and the risks far outweighed any potential benefit. In fact, after examining Robyn just 10 days before the angiogram, her primary PAFMG physician noted that her migraines had improved substantially, she was feeling optimistic, a new treatment was working and he did not have to see her again for 5-10 years. None of this information was communicated to any other doctor. After the disastrous outcome, the doctors at PAFMG and Stanford pointed the finger at each other, each claiming that they did NOT order the test. The test requisition form was mysteriously "missing."
A highlight at trial occurred after a PAFMG doctor testified and denied under oath ordering the procedure that harmed Robyn. In a moment reminiscent of Paul Newman’s “The Verdict,” a Stanford nurse then testified tearfully that, even though she respected the PAFMG doctor, had worked with him and even sought him out to perform spinal surgery on her, she had personally seen the requisition form when the test was ordered by the PAFMG doctor and, in denying he ordered the test, the doctor was being untruthful "and it's breaking my heart."
The case was tried in front of Judge Carol Overton in Santa Clara County Superior County for 4 weeks on an all day, every day schedule. That the matter even got to trial reflects the tenacity and determination of Ms. Frankel's counsel. The Complaint was filed in January of 2008 by prior counsel and dismissed with prejudice in May 2010 when the attorney felt the defendants’ MSJ could not successfully be opposed. Ms. Frankel then turned to David A. Bovino, founding partner of the Aspen, Colorado firm Law Offices of Bovino & Associates. Mr. Bovino, with two of the firm's attorneys, Summer Woodson and Marcy Railsback, a Los Angeles attorney who is Of Counsel to the firm, took over. They contacted numerous medical specialists to evaluate the case and each confirmed that the action was meritorious. They succeeded in having the dismissal vacated and then defeated the motion for summary judgment. Jeffrey S. Mitchell of the San Francisco firm Emison Hullverson Mitchell LLP came on as co-counsel in 2011 and, as lead counsel, tried the case with Mr. Bovino, Ms. Railsback and Ms. Woodson. The trial team also had assistance from attorneys Rebecca Byrne and Robert Broadbelt.
Dozens of expert and percipient witnesses testified at trial, establishing that PAFMG had breached the standard of care, proving damages and describing Robyn Frankel's life as it was before and is now and how this has impacted her two children and the rest of her family. But it was Robyn Frankel who brought tears to the eyes of the jurors on several occasions. Perhaps the most heart-wrenching was her response when asked what her first memory was when she came out of the coma. Looking straight ahead, Robyn answered that when she awoke in the middle of the night, she tried to move but could not. She started to scream but then stopped because she realized "I'm alive. I'm alive. I'm alive for my children."
Outcome: The damages awarded by the 9-3 jury on March 19, 2012, one of the largest medical malpractice verdicts in the history of Santa Clara County, broke down as follows:
Past Economic Loss:
Earnings: $ 421,956
Future Economic Loss:
Earnings: $ 1,333,690 (present value = $1,074,484)
Medical: $12,680,844 (present value = $7,832,481)
Total: $14,014,534 (present value = $8,906,965)
Past Non-Economic: $2,000,000
Future Non-Economic: $4,000,000
Total Non-Economic: $6,000,000, (will be reduced to $250,000, per MICRA)
The gross award was $22,014,384. After reductions for present value and MICRA caps, the total recoverable damages are as follows:
Past Economic loss: $1,999,850
Future Economic loss: $8,906,965
Non-Economic: $ 250,000
In addition, there was a CCP 998 offer for $4,001,000 served in November 2011 which lapsed, so expert costs will be awarded to plaintiff and interest will run at 10% from that date.
Recoverable costs should be over $200,000. The total judgment, therefore, should be roughly $11,500,000 + interest. This is in addition to the sum that was paid by Stanford in a confidential settlement reached on the morning of trial.