Conal Doyle was lead counsel in two related civil rights cases that have been reported in the news media around the world, and have been credited with changing the way that the government provides health care to immigration detainees. The case summaries follow:
Civil Rights/Medical Malpractice — Penile Amputation and Wrongful Death, Castaneda v. United States, California Federal Court, Case No: 07-cv-7241
$1,950,000 Settlement (April 2011)
Conal Doyle obtained a $1,950,000 settlement in Castaneda v. U.S., 538 F.Supp.2d 1279 (C.D. Cal 2008), affirmed, Castaneda v. U.S., 546 F.3d 682 (9th Cir. 2008), reversed, Castaneda v. Hui,130 S.Ct. 1845 (2010), which is an action by an immigration detainee who suffered a penile amputation and subsequently died due to the United States’ failure to timely diagnose and treat penile cancer.
Castaneda v. United States is a companion case to Castaneda v. State, and the settlement with the United States is in addition to the $1.73 million dollar verdict obtained against the State. This settlement is almost eight times the $250,000 medical malpractice cap that the United States argued applied to the case. The Firm spent more than $180,000 in case costs prosecuting the Castaneda cases.
The case has received extensive international media coverage, with numerous stories published by the San Francisco Chronicle, L.A. Times, New York Times, Washington Post, Canadian News Press, British Broadcasting Company (BBC), Daily Journal, Univision, Telemundo, numerous other international media outlets, and 60 Minutes.
The San Francisco Trial Lawyers Association honored Conal Doyle with the 2011 Civil Justice Award for his unprecedented work on behalf of the Castaneda family. And the National Law Journal recognized him as its national “Appellate Lawyer of the Week” for his argument before the U.S. Supreme Court in Hui v. Castaneda.
Medical Malpractice/Civil Rights — Penile Amputation and Wrongful Death, Castaneda v. State of California, Los Angeles Superior Court, Case No: VC050229
$1,735,000 Jury Verdict (November 2010)
Conal Doyle obtained a $1,735,557 jury verdict on November 10, 2010 on behalf of the family of Francisco Castaneda, a state prisoner who died because the State of California refused to provide him a biopsy to rule out penile cancer during his four month detention. The suit was brought by Mr. Castaneda’s 17 year old daughter, Vanessa Castaneda. Prior to trial, the State offered $10,000 to settle the claim, and disputed liability, causation, and damages. During trial, Mr. Doyle asked the jury to return a verdict of $1,500,000 in non-economic damages and $235,557 for past medical bills.
After deliberating for less than four hours, the jury returned a verdict for the exact amount requested, which was 170 times the pre-trial defense offer. The amount of the verdict was not reduced due to comparative fault and is not subject to California’s medical malpractice tort reform act (“MICRA”), and is 100% collectible.
The Daily Journal, California’s daily legal newspaper, recognized Castaneda v. State of California as one of California’s Top 10 most impactful verdicts of 2010. The Castaneda verdict was ranked third in impact, behind only the verdicts striking down the U.S. military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and Proposition 8, the California ban on gay marriage. The Castaneda verdict was recognized for its impact on improving the medical care system for immigration detainees.
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.