Cibula v. United States, No. 10-1245

Decided: January 9, 2012

The negligence of Government doctors in California caused significant and irreversible brain damage to J.C. His parents, the Cibulas, brought this Federal Tort Claims Act suit against the United States on behalf of themselves and J.C. The district court found the United States liable for J.C.’s damages, including a $22,823,718 for J.C.’s future care costs. The future care award was determined based on the testimony of the Cibulas’ expert, Dr. Richard Lurito. The district court ordered the $22,823,718 future care award be placed in a non-reversionary trust for J.C.’s benefit. On appeal in Cibula I, the United States challenged the district court’s refusal to follow California law and create a reversionary trust. The Fourth Circuit agreed that the district court should have applied California law, and remanded the case. On remand, the district court ordered the present value of the future care award be placed into a special needs trust for the benefit of J.C., but which contained no reversion provision. The United States again appealed, contending that the district court erred by refusing to order the future care award be placed into a reversionary trust. The Fourth Circuit held that because granting the Government a reversionary interest in J.C.’s future care award eliminates the potential for a windfall without in any way rendering the award less sufficient compensation for J.C., such a remedy would be consistent with both California law and the Federal Tort Claims Act. Accordingly, the Fourth Circuit remanded the case with instructions for the district court to fashion such a remedy, and affirmed in all other respects.

Full Opinion

-Sara I. Salehi

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