Court upholds verdict in farmworker's medical negligence case
Injury occurs: 2007.
Sutter County Superior Court civil trial: 2010.
State appellate court ruling: December 2012.
Medical costs: More than $900,000.
A judgment in the medical negligence case of a Live Oak farmworker, who incurred more than $900,000 in medical bills after fracturing his leg when loading a horse onto a trailer, has been upheld by a state court.
Javier Bedolla-Reyes, 44, contended jurors during his Sutter County Superior Court trial in November 2010 should have been instructed about comparative fault. But the Sacramento-based appellate court in its ruling on Monday disagreed and affirmed the jury's judgment that medical negligence did not harm Bedolla-Reyes.
Jurors would not have reached the question of apportioning damages unless it first found medical negligence, the state court said.
Bedolla-Reyes was discharged with crutches after surgery at Rideout Regional Medical Center in 2007 and told to stay off his feet as much as possible, according to the ruling Monday.
He does not speak English and a friend translated the doctor's instructions into Spanish. Several additional surgeries followed, including plastic surgery at the UC Davis Medical Center, after his leg did not heal. Bedolla-Reyes contended he was told after the first surgery to "just start walking" and to "leave the crutches and go swimming." But Bedolla-Reyes' doctor disputed telling him that.
The doctor who performed the surgery, Garry Vallier, and was sued, said he has never in his life told a patient less than a week after surgery to go swimming. The translator, however, said that was the instruction he heard.
The state court in its ruling said that Bedolla-Reyes gave conflicting courtroom testimony about whether he followed the advice he contended the doctor gave to start walking on his injured leg. The ruling also notes that Bedolla-Reyes had diabetes, "a condition that often leads to problems with wound healing following surgery."
Arrangements began after Bedolla-Reyes' July 2007 discharge — following surgery when the edges of his wound turned black, indicating the tissue was dead — to see a plastic surgeon at UC Davis to take tissue from another area of his body and perform a skin graft to cover the leg wound.
He was not evaluated until November 2007 because UC Davis couldn't admit him until his Medi-Cal application was approved. Problems verifying his immigration status delayed approval. Home health nurses visited Bedolla-Reyes three days a week to care for his wound in the meantime.
Bedolla-Reyes, when evaluated at UC Davis, had infection in the bone and underwent further treatment. The appellate court in its ruling Monday said that he will always be at risk for a recurrence of this infection.
Attorney Michelle Jenni, who represented Bedolla-Reyes, said Friday that the state court ruling likely concludes the case. She declined to comment further.
CONTACT Ryan McCarthy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 749-4780. Find him on Facebook at /ADrmccarthy.