When David Zeller was just 53 years old, he was paralyzed during a medical procedure that went wrong at San Francisco General Hospital in 2012. He used an ambulance to reach the hospital and the entire time, he complained about pain in both his back and his legs. Once he reached the hospital, he claims that the medical team shoved him from the gurney onto the medical table which resulted in irreparable spinal cord damage and paraplegia.
Zeller gathered a legal team and sued the hospital. It took some time, but eventually the medical malpractice lawsuit was settled. According to the terms of the settlement, University of California, the official employers of the doctors who work at San Francisco General Hospital would pay $600,000 of the agreed upon settlement while the city of San Francisco would be responsible for paying the remaining $900,000 of the settlement.
In most cases, this would have been the end of the story, but this time there’s a twist. Four years after he first learned he would be paralyzed for the rest of his life, David Zeller committed suicide, an act that the San Francisco city officials feel means that they no longer have to worry about paying the agreed up on settlement amount.
Zeller’s personal injury lawyer is shocked by the city’s stance and has accused them reneging on an agreement that was made in good faith. The city response was that by taking his own life, Zeller changed the terms of the deal. They claim that since a majority of the settlement was to be used to pay future medical bills and living expenses, that with Zeller no longer alive, those predicted future bills won’t exist.
The ways the laws are currently written, plaintiffs in medical malpractice cases can’t be awarded more than $250,000 to compensate for their pain and suffering. This is mandated by a California state law that was created in 1975.
Zeller’s legal team points out that when the settlement was created, no contact was made that stipulated what the money would be used for or when it would be used. Therefore, the fact that Zeller took his own life shouldn’t be relevant.
Zinn, who stood by Zeller throughout the negotiation phase of the medical malpractice case feels the city is dishonoring his now deceased client. “This settlement brought peace to David. He felt they were taking accountability for what happened. He’s not here physically to feel cheated by this, but spiritually this has to do with letting him rest.”
If Zinn is able to reverse the cities decision and reinstate the settlement, Zeller’s 54 year old nephew, Michael McCowan, would inherit the settlement. He says if he ever gets the settlement he’ll use it to create a scholarship fund in Zeller’s name.