McKnight v. Spain, Record Setting $26.8 million jury verdict in Medical Malpractice case

In December 2013, Conal Doyle obtained the highest medical malpractice jury verdict in the history of Kern County, California. The $26.8 million verdict was recognized by California’s legal newspaper, The Daily Journal, as one of the Top Ten Verdicts of 2013.

In McKnight, the plaintiff brought a lawsuit against two intraoperative neurodiagnostic monitors who caused her paralysis by failing to do their jobs during a complex spine surgery.

The plaintiff, Charlene McKnight, underwent a spinal surgery on February 23, 2009, and was rendered a paraplegic when a bone fragment was thrust into her spinal cord during surgery. The defendants were supposed to be monitoring the electrical signal of Ms. McKnight’s spinal cord, but neglected to inform the surgeon of an “interruption in signal” which signified compression to the cord. This deprived the surgeon of the opportunity to take corrective action and remove the bone fragment before permanent paralysis ensued.

Significantly, Mr. Doyle was able to obtain a pre-trial ruling that MICRA, California’s medical malpractice tort reform statute, does not apply. Therefore, the defendants, who are not licensed health care providers, do not have the protection of damages caps. Therefore, the entirety of the verdict is recoverable.

The case has settled on appeal. Ms. McKnight recovered a total of $17 million from all defendants, one of the largest actual recoveries by a medical malpractice plaintiff in California history.

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