More than nine years ago a routine prenatal exam at the Pittsburg Health Center, located in northern California, ended in catastrophe for the Cuevas family. According to a medical malpractice lawsuit, filed on behalf of the family, the attending doctor did not respond quickly enough to the distress of the pregnant mother or her twins. This delay allegedly led to the death of one of the children and caused Brian Cuevas, the surviving child, to suffer from permanent brain damage.
The lawsuit claims that Contra Costa County Health Services, which runs the Pittsburg Health Center, is responsible for the calamity in part because they assigned a family practitioner and not an obstetrician or a perinatologist. In addition, Dr. Teresa Madrigal, the doctor that was assigned to the case, was allegedly negligent in her handling of the pregnancy. The attorneys representing the Cuevas family asserted in court that if an emergency caesarian section had been ordered earlier, both children would have likely survived. It was also alleged that Madrigal altered medical records and lied about her actions.
After a two-month trial in 2014, a California jury came back with a verdict in favor of the Cuevas family, finding Contra Costa County Health Care Services liable for medical malpractice and wrongful death. The jury awarded the family $12.1 million, which included $9.577 million for future medical expenses, $2 million for the loss of future income, $500,000 in general damages, and $55,000 in past medical costs. The judge approved a trust in which the money would be held for the surviving twin, who is now 9-years-old.
“The defense admitted at trial that he would never be able to live independently and never would be employed,” remarked an attorney representing the plaintiff.
But now, more than three years later, the trust remains empty and the Cuevas family is still awaiting the release of any of the awarded damages. Contra Costa County Health Services appealed the $9.577 million in future medical expenses and a new trial has been scheduled. Despite the fact that more than $2 million of the verdict was not appealed, not one dollar has been released by AIG, the county’s insurance company.
“AIG’s refusal to pay is causing Brian continuing harm by depriving him of therapy and services that he needs,” said one of the lawyers representing the Cuevas family. “I’m very sad to have to explain this to my clients.”