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In the News, 1/26/98
The Ripoff of Jabes Salgado

Copyright (C) 1998 by Steve Litt. -- Legal

First they took his arm. Then they took his jury settlement. Jabes Salgado is ten years old. 

The Facts, as Reported in the News:

This isn't propaganda. All information in this article came out of the article titled "Boy's Case Reopens Malpractice Law Debate", by Julie Marquis, on page 3 of the Los Angeles times, Monday, January 26, 1998. The Los Angeles Times is a mainstream newspaper. Let's start with a quote from the article:

"The little boy's family argued during trial that county doctors disregarded the mother's need for a caesarean section for her abnormally large infant -- a complication of her diabetes. He got stuck against her pelvis. By the time he was pulled out, he had suffered nerve damage, leaving his right arm and shoulder partially -- but permanently -- disabled. He can't fully straighten it, lift his hand above his shoulder or throw a ball." 

The article further explains that a Compton, California jury awarded little Jabes $550,000 for future pain and suffering, $10,000 for past pain and suffering, and $125,000 for future medical expenses.

Now listen to this. The article says the judge applied his interpretation of the "Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act", which limits claims of future pain and suffering to $250,000. Then, instead of giving the $250,000 to little Jabes, he spread the payments over Jabes' lifetime, reducing the present value of the future pain and suffering award to $62,000. The present value of the entire award, after the judge got through, was $103,000.

The paper quotes an appelate attorney named Martin Stein as saying ""There is nothing in the statute" that indicates the $250,000 is meant to be paid out in current dollars."

My opinion:

Mr. Stein, why pay Jabes in dollars at all? Imagine the saving to the defendant if Jabes were paid in 5 year old computers. We can compensate little Jabes for his crippled arm with 100 "486" computers. These cost $2500 new in 1993, for a settlement of $250,000. Better yet, the current market value is about $300 each, so it would cost the defendant only $30,000. Better still, why don't we pay him in Confederate dollars, or World War 1 German Currency?

$62,000. About the cost of those foriegn sports cars so favored by doctors, lawyers, and insurance executives. $62,000 to make up for a childhood of not throwing balls. Of not being considered "strong". Of inability to do certain professions.

$62,000 for the teasing he'll endure in the schoolyard. For that pretty girl turned off by "his arm". For his inability to play football, baseball or basketball with his future son. For the pain involved in the further medical treatment (for which the jury allocated $125,000).

$62,000. A sports car. A lifetime disability.

Even Sadder

Sad as this is, it's even sadder that Jabes got nothing for future economic damage. The day he came into this world, infant Jabes was excluded from many professions. While I'm sure defendant's lawyers would argue such professions are manual labor and are on the low side of the wage scale, many can be stepping stones.

For instance, now I'm a good enough computer programmer that if my fingers were cut off, I could hire a typist to do that part of my work. But back when I started in my profession, that wasn't true. If I had no fingers as a beginner, I NEVER would have been able to enter my profession.

If Jabes had been born by caesarean could he have parlayed a mechanics job into a managership or ownership of a chain of repair facilities? We'll never know.

Could he have started as a construction laborer and ended up a general contractor? We'll never know.

Could he have become a policeman, then formed his own detective agency? We'll never know.

Could he have been a highly paid professional athlete? We'll never know.

What we do know is the day his mother's doctors decided not to deliver him by caesarean, they closed all those doors to him. No economic damages? Get real!

A message to the medical establishment, their lawyers and lobbyists

You guys sleep well at night? Accidents happen, but when you compound the accident by paying $62,000 for future pain and suffering to a little boy permanantly disabled by the (forseeable, according to the jury) accident, that's just plain mean. Mark my words. The eyes of the world are upon you. It may not be today, or tomorrow, but one day you will pay!

A message to the public

Write your congressman, your senator, everyone. Tell them to repeal all limitations on medical damages. The medical establishment will argue that the limitations are for your good, to control costs (to quote from the LA Times article, "Although insurer and doctor groups say the limit is essential to control costs..."). 

If doctors and insurers really want to control lawsuit costs, they should be more careful and thorough in their medical treatment. To limit their liability is to encourage reckless behavior on the part of doctors and insurers. The next victim may be a member of your family.

A message to Jabes Salgado

As an American, a father of three small children, and a human being, I am so sorry for the way you have been treated. If there's a way I can help you, possibly by helping you learn computer technology, I'll do it.

Jabes, please keep in mind that often in history the exploited outdo their exploiters. The state of Israel rose from the ashes of Hitler's holocaust. Nelson Mandela emerged from prison to rule those who imprisoned him. Gandhi. Walesa. Cesar Chavez. 

Don't be a victim, Jabes. Be strong. Win. Then give back to the community. Let your legacy bury those who sought to cheat you.

Boy's Case Reopens Malpractice Law Debate: LA Times, 1/26/98

Probe of Caesarean Policy Is Urged: LA Times, 1/26/98

County C-Section Rule Took Heavy Human Toll: LA Times, 1/25/98

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