Jurors ruled Friday that the Palo Alto Medical Clinic and the Stanford University Medical Center failed to detect the disease that has left 9-year-old Michael Cook with an IQ of 30, and in need of a feeding tube and constant care.
But for now the award to Michael and his family, who live in Redwood City, stands as one of the largest in state history, according to Gary Bagin of Jury Verdict Research in Pennsylvania.
“We’re still numb,” Michael’s mother, Cara Cook, said Monday. “This isn’t about Michael. It’s about public awareness and not letting this ever happen again.”
Michael suffers from Phenylketonuria, a rare hereditary condition that can cause severe brain damage if left untreated, but is easily controlled with a special diet if caught at birth.
Although he showed developmental problems early, Michael was not diagnosed until he was six, and now he speaks only a few words and functions at the level of a 3-year-old.
Michael’s younger brother, Jack, suffers from the same condition, but he was properly diagnosed and is now a healthy and normal toddler.
Jurors ruled that Stanford is 35 percent responsible for Michael’s condition and the clinic is 65 percent responsible. Michael received care at both facilities.
The San Francisco Superior Court jury awarded Michael $56.3 million for medical care and $14.1 million for lost earnings. California law does not limit those awards, although it includes a cap of $250,000 for pain and suffering. The jury also awarded the maximum pain-and-suffering award.
David Sheuerman, a lawyer for Stanford, said the university met the standard of care that was expected in 1994, when Michael was born.
“Stanford ran their program the same way as any other program in California,” Sheuerman said. “The jury chose not to consider that. I think the jury wanted to take care of this little boy.”