Attorney Profiles

Sean M. Burke

Sean M. Burke

With more than 25 years of experience as an attorney, Sean M. Burke can help you attain the compensation you deserve after a serious personal injury. He holds an AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell, and was named Orange County Trial Lawyer Association's (OCTLA) Medical Malpractice Trial Lawyer of the Year for 2005.
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Heather J. Higson

Heather J. Higson

Heather J. Higson became a member of the State Bar of California in 1989, and joined Mr. Burke’s law firm in 2006. She has experience in every area of medical malpractice, from case inception through discover and trial.
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Browse our Verdicts and Settlements

Personal Injury Attorneys Orange County

The record of his or her results — cases won or settled and judgments earned for clients — is the ultimate litmus test of the quality of a personal injury attorney. Located in Orange County and serving all Southern California communities, the law offices of Sean M. Burke have a distinguished history of securing results for clients in all kinds of personal injury cases, from auto and semi truck accident litigation to medical malpractice suits. Some of the highlights are listed below.

Improper treatment of prostate cancer leads to severe complications.

A 74-year-old man underwent a radical prostatectomy for prostate cancer and developed severe complications. In attempting to repair the complications, the doctors committed malpractice and caused the man to suffer a severe infection and to develop sepsis which necessitated multiple surgeries over 18 months and kept the man from working in his privately held company. As a result, the plaintiff alleged he lost substantial money in his business and incurred substantial debts.

Settlement: $5 million

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Johnson v United States of America (Negligent Spine Surgery at a VA Medical Center causes quadriplegia and quadriparesis)

Plaintiff, Alvin Johnson, was a 66 year old minister and pastor of his own church in South Central Los Angeles. He became quadriparetic (weakness in all four extremities) and is confined to a wheelchair following cervical spine surgery at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in West Los Angeles by Dr. Antonio DeSalles and Dr. Donald Shields. During the course of the cervical spine surgery, the surgeons used a material called Surgifoam which they negligently left in the operative space, causing compression on the spinal cord which caused his quadriparesis. When Mr. Johnson woke up in the recovery room, he was completely paralyzed; Dr. DeSalles was notified Mr. Johnson was completely paralyzed however Dr. DeSalles refused to come to the recovery room to evaluate Mr. Johnson. Plaintiff’s experts testified if prompt surgery had been performed then, permanent paralysis would have been avoided, however, it was not performed and as a result, Mr. Johnson was left quadriparetic.

Verdict: $4.342 million

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Rockabrand v UCI/Regents of the University of California (Negligent Hip Surgery results in nerve injury, RSD and CRPS):

Plaintiff, Erica Rockabrand, was a 26 year old graduate student working on her Ph.D. in Biochemistry when she underwent hip surgery by Guy Paiement, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon, at UCI Medical Center. The surgery was intended to fuse her sacroiliac joint (SI joint). During the surgery, Dr. Paiement drove a screw into the S1 nerve root, causing Ms. Rockabrand to suffer permanent nerve injury, Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) and Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). When she awoke in the recovery room, she was complaining of severe pain, however, Dr. Paiement did not come to check on her and sent a first year resident instead, who simply gave her more pain medication to mask the pain she was experiencing. She lives with constant pain in her leg now and had to delay her graduation and the start of her career by one year, losing approximately $90,000.00 in earnings.

Verdict: $2.889 million

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Faulty technique in cervical epidural injection and subsequent monitoring leads to brain damage.

A 59-year-old woman underwent a cervical epidural injection from a pain management specialist to attempt to relieve pain in her neck and arms. In the recovery area after the injection, the woman suffered a respiratory and cardiac arrest and the nurses observing her failed to promptly address the arrest. As a result, she suffered from hypoxia and developed brain damage, which kept her from being able to work and necessitated long-term care for her needs.

Settlement: $1.3 million

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Defect in computerized controller causes permanent spinal cord damage in actress.

An actress fell 25 feet when a "flying" rig malfunctioned, causing a fractured vertebra and nerve damage, which left her with no sensation below the navel. Our firm did an extensive personal injury investigation to help this Southern California resident. Sean M. Burke, the experienced personal injury attorney at our Orange County practice, revealed a manufacturer defect in a small computer chip.

Settlement: $2.55 million

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Delay in diagnosis and error in anesthesia leads to brain damage.

A 24-year-old man entered the ER twice in one week only to be misdiagnosed on both occasions by the same doctor. Two days later he was correctly diagnosed with a ruptured esophagus. The Law Offices of Sean M. Burke explored the case. Our personal injury attorney discovered the doctor to be at fault. During the course of the repair surgery, the anesthesiologist made several errors, leaving the young man in a semi-vegetative state.

Settlement: $2.625 million

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Doctor injures fetus during amniocentesis, causing permanent brain damage.

Personal injury attorney Sean M. Burke in Orange County believed this doctor should be held responsible. Dr. B failed to recognize a problem during Mrs. J's amniocentesis. When one of her twins was not developing properly, tests revealed that half the baby's brain had never developed. Mr. Burke's legal team obtained the services of the world's leading expert on fetal brain development to prove the doctor was at fault. The opposing side quickly settled. Mrs. J purchased an annuity with her settlement, which will pay over $20 million during the child's life.

Settlement: $2 million

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Seatbelt defect causes permanent brain damage in 24-year-old man.

Joe E. was driving his pick-up truck to work when a driver swerved across the center line and struck him head-on at a combined speed in excess of 125 mph. Joe was wearing his seatbelt, but it tore in half. He hit the windshield, causing him to suffer severe brain damage, which caused him to become very passive and unable to hold jobs. The car manufacturer and seatbelt manufacturer claimed the seatbelt was never designed to withstand the forces in this type of accident, and there was no evidence of any defect. The settlement allowed him to buy a house and live on his own, while pursuing less demanding careers.

Settlement: $1.5 million

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Doctor's delay in diagnosis leads to loss of penis.

Mr. W. had a penile implant placed by Dr. D. In the postoperative period, Dr. D. failed to recognize and diagnose an infection that developed in Mr. W's penis. As a result, the infection spread and gangrene developed, and Mr. W's penis had to be surgically removed. The settlement of $700,000 included the maximum allowable for Mr. and Mrs. W ($250,000 each) plus $200,000 paid by the doctor personally for punitive damages.

Settlement: $700,000

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Doe v Roe Dermatologist (Failure to Properly Treat Melanoma)

The plaintiff was the widow of a 47 year old man who died from metastatic melanoma after having been followed by the same dermatologist for several years. A biopsy of a “suspicious lesion” on the patient’s back had been interpreted as suspicious for melanoma, with the recommendation made to remove the lesion more completely, however the dermatologist failed to remove the lesion in its entirety and the cancer spread to other organs in the man’s body, eventually leading to his death.

Settlement: $950,000

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Delay in diagnosis of spinal hematoma results in paralysis in 78-year-old woman.

"E" was admitted to the hospital and diagnosed with having had a mild stroke. A lumbar tap was done and she was then started on heparin (a blood thinner) to prevent further damage from the stroke. After a day of physical therapy, she started complaining of new symptoms including pain and weakness in both legs. The nurses and physical therapists failed to notify the doctors of these symptoms, and the doctors ignored complaints she made to them. Two days later, a neurologist discovered she had developed a spinal hematoma, and emergency surgery was performed. It turned out to be too late to restore function to her legs, and she ended up paraplegic.

Settlement: $1.375 million

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Doe v Roe Rehabilitation Hospital (Dependent Adult Abuse and Negligence causes death of 24 year old man)

Plaintiffs were the parents of a 24 year old man who was admitted to a rehabilitation hospital for treatment of addiction to Oxycontin/Oxycodone after having taken several pills in the few hours before he was admitted. The mother, who was a registered nurse, questioned the cocktail of drugs the nurse at the facility said she was going to give to the son because the son was already so intoxicated and sedated and the nurse promised not to give them. The nurse also assured the parents their son would be checked every fifteen minutes through the night to make sure he was okay. The parents, feeling reassured, left the facility around 10:00 p.m. The nurse proceeded to give the medications she promised she would not give. Although the son was checked every 15 minutes until about 2:30 a.m., there were no checks after that. The next morning as the parents were returning to the facility to visit their son, they received a call advising them their son had been found dead and unresponsive at approximately 7:30 that morning.

Settlement: $600,000

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Doctor's attempt to change records backfires and results in six-figure settlement.

Mrs. Z went to Dr. C with complaints of a cough. An x-ray showed bronchitis and a suspicious spot on her lung. A CT scan was recommended but never ordered by the doctor. When Mrs. Z visited a new doctor eight months later, he asked her what the CT scan had shown. She informed him the scan was never performed. The new doctor ordered a CT scan, which revealed advanced and untreatable lung cancer. The original doctor falsified records to make it appear that he had ordered the CT scan, claiming Mrs. Z had refused the procedure. Our investigation proved the doctor had falsified the records and had never ordered the CT scan.

Settlement: $975,000

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ER doctor's improper administration of medication and delay in intubating patient causes permanent brain damage.

Mr. S drove himself to the emergency room during an asthma attack. An ER physician gave Mr. S a shot of medication, which should only be administered over a 15-minute period. As a result, Mr. S went into respiratory arrest. The ER doctor delayed intubating Mr. S, causing brain damage that left the patient in a permanent coma. His settlement included the maximum recovery of $250,000. While his future medical expenses will be covered by Medi-Cal, the settlement of $1.35 million was used to fund an annuity to cover the costs of raising and educating his two children.

Settlement: $1.35 million

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Improper surgery and treatment of fractured leg results in fusion of the knee in 18-year-old man.

Joe M., 18, was a passenger on a motorcycle when it was struck head-on by a tow truck that drifted over the center line. He suffered a severe fracture of his knee, which had dirt and asphalt ground into it by the time he arrived at the hospital. The doctors in the county hospital repaired the fracture in an initial surgery, but failed to properly treat it afterward. As a result, Joe's knee had to be fused. The jury awarded him the maximum of $250,000, plus an additional $75,000 for necessary future surgeries.

Verdict: $325,000

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Roe v Doe (Elder Abuse of 92 year old woman results in her death after extended period of pain and suffering)

Plaintiffs were the son and daughter of a 92 year old woman who was treated at a rehabilitation hospital and an acute care facility over a four month period following a fall which resulted in a fractured hip and surgery to repair the hip. During her treatment, she developed Stage IV bedsores and she became septic, which led to her death.

Settlement: $355,000

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Doctor's failure to advise of genetic defect leads to birth of son with Down syndrome.

While Mrs. G was pregnant with her third child, she had the state-mandated test for neural tube defects. The result was reported to the doctor as being slightly abnormal. The doctor decided to re-run the test with a different due date, which caused the test to report a normal pregnancy. When Mrs. G returned, the doctor told her the test was fine. After their son was born, he was diagnosed with Down syndrome. Mr. and Mrs. G asked the doctor how that could have occurred when they had tested for it and the doctor advised them of the abnormal result. The parents claimed he had taken away their right to choose, and if they had been given the choice, they would have terminated the pregnancy. An annuity was purchased which will provide for the extraordinary expenses the child will incur over the course of his life as a result of Down syndrome.

Settlement: $887,500

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Defect in motorcycle causes accident and severe brain damage in 26-year-old man.

Arturo V. bought a motorcycle and rode it very conservatively until its 1,200-mile checkup. After the checkup, he was told all was fine. Two nights later, he went out with some friends and had several beers and allegedly cocaine. He got into a race with a Porsche on Pacific Coast Highway and witnesses said he was going over 100 miles per hour without a helmet at when they observed the rear wheel of his motorcycle start to "wobble." He lost control of the motorcycle and was thrown several hundred feet. He suffered significant brain damage, requiring 24-hour assistance with all activities of daily living. An investigation by the Law Offices of Sean M. Burke revealed that a critical component, the swing arm pivot bolt, was loose and had most likely been loose since the motorcycle was manufactured. The defense denied that the bolt was loose, claiming it could not have caused the accident. They blamed the accident on the drugs and alcohol, and also claimed that his injuries were the result of his not wearing a helmet and the excessive speeding. But personal injury attorney Sean M. Burke argued the facts of the case — the motorcycle was defective and would have caused an accident eventually. The motorcycle manufacturer agreed to settle.

Settlement: $1.65 million

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Doctor's use of improper medication and delay in treatment of a blocked shunt leads to permanent brain damage in young man.

Adam E. was born with a condition that required a "shunt" be placed to drain fluid from his skull to his abdomen in order to prevent excessive pressure in his brain. One night he told his mother that he had a really bad headache, which can be a sign that the shunt has become blocked. His mother took him to the hospital where a CT scan revealed there were signs that the pressure was building up. The results of the CT scan were not given to the mother, and she was told to take Adam home. When his headache persisted, she took him back to the hospital where an ER physician obtained the results and hospitalized Adam. His usual neurosurgeon was out of town, and he had left his assistant (a registered nurse) in charge of his patients along with another neurosurgeon. The assistant ordered a medication that caused a rare reaction to occur. Combined with a delay in treatment, this rare reaction caused Adam to suffer severe and permanent brain damage. The Law Offices of Sean M. Burke battled for just compensation.

Settlement: $2.15 million

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Negligent performance of epidural anesthetic causes permanent brain damage in young girl during childbirth.

Latasha B., 17, went to the hospital to give birth to her first child. Shortly after her arrival, she requested an epidural. During the procedure, the anesthesiologist put the anesthetic material into the wrong location, causing respiratory arrest. Latasha suffered permanent brain damage because the arrest was not treated correctly. She is now in a persistent coma, which will most likely last for the rest of her life. The child is healthy, and was adopted by Latasha's grandmother. The settlement will be used to provide for the child's upbringing and any special needs Latasha will have during her life.

Settlement: $1.35 million

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Doctor's failure to respond to suspicious test results causes delay in diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer.

Mr. C, 45, was seen by his family physician for an annual physical. The doctor ran blood tests and requested a PSA test be done to check for early signs of prostate cancer. The results came back suspiciously high, however, the doctor failed to repeat the test and failed to advise Mr. C of the results. Five years later, Mr. C went to a different doctor and another PSA test was done which revealed that he had advanced prostate cancer. Although he could be treated, his five-year survival rate was very dismal and, although no one can say when, he will eventually die from the cancer. The settlement included the maximum amount for him and his wife ($250,000 each), and the present value of his estimated lost earnings.

Settlement: $750,000

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Improper surgery for fractured arm leads to permanent nerve damage for electrical lineman.

Mr. B had worked as a high-wire electrical lineman all his life when he broke his arm in a motorcycle accident. The orthopedic surgeon damaged a major nerve in Mr. B's arm, causing loss of grip strength and loss of fine motor control in his right dominant hand. As a result, he could no longer perform his work duties. This caused him to suffer a significant loss of self-esteem, leading to depression, sadness, and emotional distress. Since he is still able to do the groundwork as an IBEW member, he suffered no loss of earnings. The jury awarded Mr. B $602,000, and his wife was awarded $120,000 for the affect that his injury had on their relationship.

Verdict: $722,000

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Doctor's failure to appreciate the signs and symptoms of compartment syndrome leads to permanent nerve damage in young boy.

Evan E, 9, broke his arm playing at a park. Dr. J. repaired the fractured arm. Several hours after the surgery, Evan complained of severe pain. In the post-operative period, this can be a sign of a serious condition known as compartment syndrome. Dr. J simply ordered more pain medication be given to Evan, which ended up masking the signs of the worsening compartment syndrome. By the time the condition was finally diagnosed, Evan's nerves were permanently damaged, resulting in limited use of his hand and arm. The settlement included the maximum allowable for non-economic damages, an amount for future surgeries, and the present value of the economic loss Evan will suffer from his ineligibility for certain jobs and careers.

Settlement: $750,000

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Doe v Roe Assisted Living Facility (Elder Abuse/Neglect of 85 year old man results in neck fracture, closed head injury and increased dementia)

Plaintiff was an 85 year old resident of an assisted living facility, living on the second floor. The elevator was undergoing repairs and the residents had to use the stairway. The residents were all advised to seek assistance before using the stairway. Plaintiff, whose dementia precluded any memory of the event, apparently tried to use the stairway without assistance and was found unconscious on the landing with a broken neck, a closed head injury and other assorted fractures. Plaintiff claimed the facility should have posted an employee outside the door to prevent the resident from using the stairs without assistance.

Settlement: $225,000

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Roe v Doe Perinatologist (Negligence in intubating premature infant results in death of one twin)

Plaintiffs were the parents of twin boys who were born at 24 weeks. Both babies required emergency intubation to assist in breathing. Defendant perinatologist ruptured the trachea and esophagus of one of the twin boys, resulting in his death within 24 hours.

Settlement: $190,000

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Hit-and-run driver injures 13-year-old boy on bicycle.

MM was riding his bike home from his friend's house. Witnesses said that he was riding his bike across the street even though the light was red when he was struck by a car legally traveling through the intersection. The car fled the scene before being identified by anyone. MM suffered a fractured leg, which required surgery. A claim was made under his parent's uninsured-motorist policy and the insurance company paid the policy limits of $100,000.

Settlement: Policy limits of $100,000

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12-year-old pedestrian hit in crosswalk while running against red light.

Sean M was running across Balboa Boulevard against a red light when he was struck by a car. He suffered a severely broken leg and serious internal injuries. The plaintiff claimed that even though he was running across the street against a red light, the driver still had time to see him and must not have been paying attention. If he had been paying attention, he would have been able to stop without hitting him. The Newport Beach resident hired personal injury attorney Sean M. Burke, who is experienced in handling cases throughout Southern California. Mr. Burke discovered evidence that made the driver's lawyer quickly settle.

Settlement: $280,000

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Contact the Law Offices of Personal Injury Attorney Sean M. Burke in Orange County

As the cases above demonstrate, our personal injury attorney is among the best in Orange County. Contact the law offices of Sean M. Burke today for a consultation with an expert personal injury lawyer.

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Contact the Law Offices of personal injury attorney Sean M. Burke in Orange County today to get his experience and excellent track record on your side.

Law Offices of Sean M. Burke

Irvine, CA Office

9210 Irvine Center Dr
Irvine, CA 92618

Phone: (949) 644-3434
Fax: (949) 644-3433

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Honors & Awards

Sean M. Burke & Heather Higson awarded Trial Lawyer of the Year for Medical Malpractice by the Orange County Trial Lawyers for 2014. Sean Burke has also been honored with this award in 2009 & 2005.

Top 5 Personal Injury Lawyers in Orange County by AVVO and OC Metro Magazine.