September 2019 bar bulletin
By Mark Johnson and Michael Sprangers
In 1909, in the case of Helland v. Bridenstine, the Washington Supreme Court published its first opinion in a medical malpractice case. The trial had taken place in King County Superior Court and resulted in a verdict for the plaintiff — a woman who sued her physician for giving her a “loathsome disease” as a result of examining her with unsterilized instruments.
The jury awarded the woman $4,000. The Supreme Court found the verdict excessive and gave the woman the choice of a remittitur to $2,000 or a new trial.1
In 1976, six-plus decades after Helland,...