My brother, Jim, is going in to the hospital today to get cataract outpatient surgery. I am told it is not a big deal and that they have the whole procedure down to an absolute science. In fact, the surgery should only take about 15 minutes. We joked yesterday about what would happen if they messed up. Jimmy responded that I would have a heck of a lawsuit. Gallows humor I guess.
But it did get me thinking about what the value would be for someone losing their sight. About a year ago Pittsburgh Medical Malpractice, Wrongful Death and Car Accident Attorney Bernie Tully represented a victim who became blind in one eye due to the negligence or carelessness or malpractice of a doctor at a UPMC Hospital. There is a non-disclosure for the amount of that settlement. However, my question to you the reader is this: If you were on a jury and a person lost sight in both of their eyes, how much compensation would that be worth?
The hard reality is that the law cannot give someone back their eye sight when they are the innocent victim of medical malpractice. Often times the blindness is permanent and irreversible. But what value would you assign to someone having to go through the rest of their life blind?
That is exactly what juries are often called upon to do. Namely, assign a number to the victim of medical malpractice. Let’s assume for this example that the victim of medical malpractice is 66 years old and is retired and has a life expectancy of 20 more years. These are suppose to be their golden years, when all the fruits of one’s labor are enjoyed. But how can you really enjoy yourself if you are blind? Would you give that victim $1 million, $2 million, $3 million, $5 million? What is the number you would assign?
This is a good example of how juries assess value on a case. To one person the idea of being blind might be worth $5 or $10 million in this example. To another person, they might look at it like this person is already 66 years old and deserves some money, so let’s give him $1 million.Both juries heard the same evidence and yet they were wildly different in the assessment of value. This highlights the example that is often used in these kinds of situations. Two people looking at a Picasso painting would assign very different amounts to the painting. A person who, like me, doesn’t know much at all about art might say the painting is worth $100,000. Another art collector and someone who knows about art might say you are crazy. That is worth $5 million. How do you reconcile that?