The following is an overview of how one family suffered financially due to taking a lump sum settlement for a medical malpractice lawsuit for their child over a structured settlement offer. The story showcases the need for families to understand the consequences of accepting lump sum settlements vs. structured settlement offers.
Josephine arrived at the hospital experiencing health issues; the nurse on duty diagnosed the issue as false labor pains. While there was a doctor on duty, the doctor was asleep down the hall, but the nurse didn’t want to disturb him. The hospital nurse on duty wanted to send Josephine and Christina home, but Christina’s heart rate started to drop. Josephine went into shock, which resulted in an emergency c-section and included resuscitating her baby Christina for over seven minutes. Christina spent three weeks in the hospital’s neonatal unit, and at that time, the doctors said they had done all they could and were then terminating life support. However, Christina surprised everyone by starting to breathe independently. This incident left Christina severely brain-damaged, resulting in cerebral palsy, seizures, and blindness.
Josephine heard of an attorney that worked on a similar case, and she contacted them to help her in the situation. The hospital made a lump sum offer of $50,000, which her first attorneys suggested she take. Josephine rejected this offer, and those attorneys withdrew from the case. Josephine retained a second attorney who rejected a second offer from the defendant’s attorney, which included a tax-free structured settlement as a part of it, and decided to go with a lump sum settlement.
As we know, the initial offer of $50,000 made by the hospital was deemed insufficient to cover her basic medical needs for her lifetime. Life care plans estimated the lifetime cost of medical care for little Christina to have been more than $20 million.
In the case of Christina Grillo Sullivan, her attorneys then rejected a structured settlement offer to cost $1.5 Million (est.) that would have paid out well over $100 million over the child’s lifetime. Instead, Josephine’s attorneys settled the case for a lump sum cash payment of $2.5 million, for which they took a $1 million fee and $77,000 in expenses. In the structured settlement scenario, the attorney’s fees would have been based on the structure’s cost, not the gross amount received.
This decision had severe consequences as it did not cover Christina’s basic medical needs. The structured settlement offer was not conveyed in writing, nor was Josephine informed about a structured settlement or the benefit of a rated age. In addition, the attorney’s fees would have been cost-based on the cost of the structure, not the gross amount received.
Josephine later filed a malpractice case against the attorneys and the guardian ad litem for legal malpractice regarding the facts that Christina’s case should never have been settled for a lump sum and the consequences that followed.
The passage of Senate Bill 731 in 1999 made it mandatory for a structured settlement to be presented in writing when it involved a minor child or non-cognitive adult. Josephine and her daughter Christina testified when the law was being discussed, and the legislation was passed and codified in Texas. The Grillo waiver is now commonly used to ensure that people understand what they are turning down if they want to turn it down or what they are getting if they decide to accept it.
The Grillo waiver was adopted due to Josephine Grillo Sullivan’s fight against her attorneys for settling her daughter’s medical malpractice case for a lump sum instead of a structured settlement. In addition to this experience, the Christina Grillo Sullivan Foundation, which Josephine heads, supports families with brain-injured loved ones and provides them with a Life Care Resource Guide. The yellow butterfly on the foundation’s website has special significance as it is believed to be a sign of loved ones who have passed away.
Should you need further explanation of structured settlements for minors or non-cognitive adults, one of our structured settlement consultants near you can help. Start your local search here: Structured Settlement Directory.
If you’d like to hear the full interview with Josephine, you can listen to the Ringler Radio podcast episode here: https://ringlerradio.buzzsprout.com/1467760/6241588.
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