Steven Olsen – Chula Vista, California
Twelve-year-old San Diego resident Steven Olsen is blind and brain damaged because, as a jury ruled, he was a victim of medical negligence when he was two years old. He fell on a stick in the woods while hiking. Under the family’s managed care plan, the hospital pumped Steven up with steroids and sent him away with a growing brain abscess, although his parents had asked for a CAT scan because they knew Steven was not well. The next day, Steven Olsen came back to the hospital comatose. At trial, medical experts testified that had he received the $800 CAT scan, which would have detected a growing brain mass, he would have his sight and be perfectly healthy today.
The jury awarded $7.1 million in "non-economic" damages for Steven’s avoidable life of darkness and suffering. However, the jury was not told of the two decade old restriction on non-economic damages in the state – California’s Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act. The judge was forced to reduce the amount to $250,000. The jurors only found out that their verdict had been reduced by reading about it in the newspaper.
The family received economic damages of $1.9 million to care for Steven for the rest of his life. They reached a separate out-of-court settlement with their managed care company for $2 million. However, legal fees and costs, which cannot be recovered as part of the "economic" losses, cost them $914,000.
In 2001, Steven had 74 doctor visits, 164 physical and speech therapy appointments, and three trips to the emergency room. And his parents say that was a good year because Steven was not hospitalized. Steven’s mother Kathy had to leave her job because caring for Steven is a full time job. She has to struggle constantly with the school district for Steven to receive special education classes. One day, Steven ate part of a light bulb, not an uncommon problem for children with brain injuries. He has to be watched constantly.
Kathy Olsen, an FTCR board member, said this about Steven: "It has been 10 years ago when Steven came home from a 5-month life changing stay at the hospital. He was only 2 years old. When he went into the hospital no one asked his party affiliation. He was a casualty of the system. The system that he had no say in. Which lawmakers were looking out for him? Now with all his disabilities he will never see, do things that the average person gets to do in their lifetime, or vote in an election. Please look out for all the Steven Olsens in this great country. Don’t let this happen over and over again."