August 2, 2012

San Diego jury awards $7.5 million in punitive damages in medical device case

We don't see many cases involving punitive damages in medical malpractice cases, but the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that a jury there has awarded $500,000 in punitive damages against a doctor who allegedly mismanaged the plaintiff's treatment following knee surgery.  The jury also awarded $7 million in punitive damages against Breg Inc., the maker of a medical device (the Polar Care 500) that allegedly gave the plaintiff frostbite.  The compensatory damages award is $5.2 million. (Engler v. Chao, SDSC no. GIC870982.)

The article describes accusations of negligence against the doctor, but does not explain the plaintiffs' theory for recovering punitive damages - there's no discussion of how the plaintiff proved the defendants acted with malice, oppression, or fraud.   

The case seems to be getting more press than the usual civil lawsuit because the doctor involved happens to be the team physician for the San Diego Chargers.  As the story notes, the California Medical Board is seeking to revoke his license based on three alleged incidents of negligent care in unrelated cases.