Mother developing pneumonia calls Kaiser nurse advice line, is not seen by docs until it is too late. $2.74 million award. Alameda County.


Mother of two young children develops pneumonia-like symptoms and repeatedly calls Kaiser's nurse advice line. She is not seen by doctors until it is too late. Wrongful death due to medical negligence.

The Case

  • Case Name: Doe v. Kaiser
  • Court and Case Number: Kaiser Permanente Member Arbitration Tribunal, Arb #12265
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Friday, May 22, 2015
  • Date Action was Filed: Thursday, May 23, 2013
  • Type of Case: Medical Malpractice, Wrongful Death
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): MichaeI J. Ney, Arbitrator
  • Plaintiffs:
    John Doe (Ms. Doe's husband)
    Minor daughter (Ms. Doe's child, 4 years old at the time of her mother's death)
    Minor daughter (Ms. Doe's child, 2 years old at the time of her mother's death)
  • Defendants:
    Kaiser Foundation Health Hospitals, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc., and the Permanente Medical Group
  • Type of Result: Arbitration Award

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $2,739,410
  • Net Verdict or Award: $2,739,410
  • Economic Damages:


  • Non-Economic Damages:


  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 5 days.

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger by Michael A. Kelly, Emily Wecht Polcari, and Valerie N. Rose, San Francisco.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Lombardi, Loper & Conant, LLP by Jeffrey D. Hosking, Oakland.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):

    Jamie Marie Bigelow, M.D., FCCP, internal medicine,San Francisco.

    Daniel DiGiulio, M.D., infectious disease, Palo Alto.

    Steven H. Fugaro, M.D., internal medicine, Mill Valley.

  • Defendant's Medical Expert(s):

    Michael Jacobs, M.D., primary care, Menlo Park.

    John Luce, M.D., pulmonary medicine, San Francisco.

    Patrick Joseph, M.D., Epidemiology and Infectious Disease, San Ramon.

  • Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):

    Patrick Mason, Ph.D., economics.

  • Defendant's Technical Expert(s):

    Joanna Moss, Ph.D., economics, San Francisco.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    On January 30, 2013, 42-year-old Jane Doe, a previously healthy wife and mother, died from sepsis secondary to pneumonia. A patient of The Permanente Medical Group, she had contacted various TPMG employees 3 times in the 3 days prior to her death and related worsening symptoms consistent with pneumonia, including fever, chills, cough, sore throat, and 7/10 chest pain. Ms. Doe had a brief telephone appointment with a physician, but was was not seen in person. When she was finally seen on the morning of January 29, it was too late to reverse the downward spiral caused by untreated pneumonia leading to septic shock.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    That the first two times Ms. Doe called Kaiser she was routed to advice nurses for complaints of worsening symptoms of cough and chest pain consistent with pneumonia . Instead of an in-person appointment, she was then routed to a telephone evaluation with a Kaiser internal medicine physician who decided without a physical examination that she had the "flu."

    Plaintiff further contended that Kaiser's advice nurse system is negligently set up so that Permanente Group doctors do not actually get the information that is collected by the advice nurses. The doctor was therefore unaware of the worsening symptoms previously relayed by Ms. Doe.

    That Kaiser failed to exercise the required level of skill, knowledge and care in response to the respiratory symptoms and chest pain that Jane Doe described in telephone conversations on January 27 and 28, 2013 and such failure led to her preventable death.  Claimants, Ms. Doe's husband and two young daughters, sought damages.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    Kaiser denied claimants' allegations, asserted that they complied with the standard of care, and asserted that there was nothing that was either done, or not done, which would have prevented her death.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • MICRA capped claimants' non-economic damages at $250,000. Claimed economic losses totaled $3,058,262, including $1,318,335 for past and future loss of household services.

Special Damages

  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Lost Earnings: $30,757
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Lost Earnings: $1,709,170

Demands and Offers

  • Plaintiff §998 Demand: $3,458,283
  • Plaintiff Final Demand before Trial: Same.
  • Plaintiff Demand during Trial: Same.
  • Defendant §998 Offer: None.
  • Defendant Final Offer before Trial: None.
  • Defendant Offer during Trial: None.