After Sorrel King's 18-month-old daughter, Josie, was admitted to world-renowned Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore with a severe burn, the young girl made a remarkable recovery. The King family was planning a homecoming. But a preventable mistake by the hospital caused Josie to go into cardiac arrest and die. Read an excerpt from Josie's Story about how Sorrel and her husband decided to honor Josie's memory by fighting for patient safety.
Paul Bekman, our lawyer, was beginning to worry. It had been weeks since Hopkins had made their offer and we still had not accepted the settlement. The notion of us not taking the money was beginning to look like a reality.

Paul came to the house one evening in August. We went into the living room and sat down and he told us we needed to make a decision on the settlement offer. "Hopkins is not going to let this stand indefinitely," he said.

"Josie's worth more than that," I replied.

"You're not going to get more." He had explained this to me over and over again. Maryland has a settlement cap of a little less than 1.5 million dollars for this type of situation, which included pain and suffering—my and Tony's pain and suffering, and Josie's pain and suffering. If it had been Tony who had died, the settlement would have been considerably more because Tony has economic value—lost wages to account for. In the eyes of Maryland law, Josie—a minor—was of lesser economic value.

There it was, my primer on the world of malpractice caps and tort reform. Every time Paul explained it to me I told him it didn't sense; it wasn't fair. And every time he told me the same thing.

"That's how the legal system works."

"We don't care what they offer us. We still don't want to sign the papers," I said.

Tony explained to him that this seemed like just a drop in the bucket for Hopkins, a small slap on the wrist. "If we take this money, we'll be letting them off the hook. It seems too easy for them."

"Let's just take it to a jury and see what happens," I said. "You know we'll win, and you know the media will be all over it. Let's see what Hopkins does then."

"If we go to court it could take years," he answered. "It will be grueling, not only for the two of you, but also for your children. You want to destroy Hopkins? Well, Hopkins will do the same to you. There is no doubt in my mind that we would win, but you will only walk away with what has already been offered in this settlement. You gain nothing by going to court."

"I want everyone to know what they did. If we don't go to court, the media won't pick up on it. Hopkins is only going to hide it and forget that it ever happened," I said.

"We can call the media right now and there could be a story in tomorrow's paper, but you know what? It will be one sad story in one local paper and then it will be forgotten."

Josie's Story © 2009 by Sorrel King, reprinted with the permission of the publisher, Atlantic Monthly Press, an imprint of Grove/Atlantic, Inc.


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