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San Francisco-A jury awarded a 9-year-old boy $70.9 million in compensatory damages after finding a hospital and a medical clinic negligent for failing to diagnose his metabolic disease. The award could be among the biggest in California this year. In 2002, the top 10 jury awards were about $70 million or more, while the top 25 cut off at about $14 million, according to a survey by The National Law Journal and VerdictSearch, an affiliate of the paper. Plaintiff Michael Cook was born at a Stanford University hospital in 1994 and diagnosed in 2000 with the metabolic disorder phenylketonuria, or PKU, court papers say. The boy’s mother, Cara Cook, sued Stanford Health Services and the Palo Alto Medical Clinic on the boy’s behalf, arguing he could have avoided brain damage and developed normally if doctors had diagnosed his condition earlier. The verdict in Cook v. Stanford Health Services, No. 324905 (San Francisco Co., Calif., Super Ct.), includes $56.3 million for future medical and attendant services, special education and rehabilitative care, and $14.1 million for the loss of future earnings. Only half collectible The boy can only collect half of the $500,000 the jury awarded in noneconomic damages for disability and impairment under California’s Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act, which caps noneconomic damages at $250,000, said his attorney, David Baum of San Francisco’s Baum & Blake. Baum, who originally asked for about $87 million, argued that the hospital took the boy’s blood specimen when he was four hours old, too early to get accurate results when performing a required screening test for metabolic disorders. The lawyer asserted that a doctor at the medical clinic who saw the boy for two years failed to order more metabolic testing when the baby started missing milestones of development, such as crawling and speaking. The lawyer for Stanford Health Services, David Sheuerman of Sheuerman, Martini and Tabari in San Jose, Calif., argued that the state didn’t come out with a guideline saying the tests should be done after a baby’s first 12 hours until 1995, the year after Cook was born. Sheuerman said 88,000 infants in California between zero and 12 hours of age were tested in 1994. “Stanford did their screening program the same way every other hospital in the Bay Area did it.” Baum said he countered Sheuerman’s argument by putting a state official on the stand who testified that the 1995 guideline made a previously well-known standard explicit. The attorney who defended the Palo Alto Medical Clinic could not be reached for comment.

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