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    Verdict and Settlements

    $6,000,000 Verdict - Medical Malpractice - Failure To Discover Ligation Of Right Coronary Artery During Open Hear Surgery - Ventricular Tachycardia - Delay In Treatment - Heart Transplant Required.

    FACTS
    The plaintiff was born with a congenital defect of the atrial septum (upper chamber of the heart) which had been previously repaired. After the birth of plaintiff's third child, a pseudo aneurysm of the aorta associated with the prior repair surgery was discovered. The plaintiff underwent open heart surgery performed by the defendant surgeon to remove the pseudo aneurysm. The plaintiff's medical experts testified that the plaintiff's right coronary artery was ligated by the defendant during the procedure and was not discovered during the surgery.

    The plaintiff's experts testified that the plaintiff required catecholamines (heart booster) and a pacemaker to leave the operating room, signaling that she required close monitoring. In addition the plaintiff's central venous pressure was 20 when normal is 13, according to the plaintiff's evidence. The plaintiff went into ventricular tachycardia and suffered a heart attack within hours of the surgery, according to the plaintiff's claims.

    THEORIES
    The plaintiff contended that the defendant did not see the plaintiff for some 7.5 hours post-surgery. The plaintiff's cardiologist testified that there was a window of four to six hours after the onset of the plaintiff's heart attack to minimize damages. The plaintiff was monitored in I.C.U. by a surgical resident who had assisted with the surgery. The resident testified that he went to the operating room where defendant was performing another surgery and informed defendant that the plaintiff was in right heart failure and something needed to be done "right away". The plaintiff contended that the defendant did not respond for another five hours at which time he implanted a right ventricular assist device which was left in place for four to five days.

    The plaintiff's experts contended that the plaintiff suffered a massive right side heart attack and that the delay in treatment increased the risk of harm to the plaintiff and she is now on the waiting list for a heart transplant. The plaintiff, who was not employed outside the home, claimed $300.00 in medical expenses. She is the mother of three children ages 9,11, and 13 at the time trail.

    DEFENSES
    The defendant's cardiothoracic surgeon testified that the ligation of the coronary artery occurred without negligence during the risky procedure and this point was not disputed. The defendant testified that he first became aware of the plaintiff's distress when the resident informed him of the situation. The defendant's expert testified that the damage to the plaintiff's heart had already occurred by the time the defendant was made aware of the situation. The defense maintained that earliest treatment would not have made a difference and that the damage to the plaintiff's heart had been done before the defendant could have taken any preventive measures.

    DISCUSSION
    All parties agreed that the coronary artery injury is a known risk of the procedure undergone by the plaintiff and can occur in the absence of negligence. The plaintiff's case was premised on the defendant's failure to discover the injury during surgery, evidence by the fact that the plaintiff suffered a massive heart attack within hours of the procedure, as well as a delay in providing medical assistance. Testimony of a surgical resident who was with the plaintiff during the critical period may have played an important role in the presentation of the plaintiff's case at trial. The resident testified that he went to the operating room where the defendant was working on another patient and told him that the plaintiff was in right heart failure and something needed to be done "right away". The plaintiff contended that nothing was done for approximately another five hours. The jury may also have considered that the defendant performed two other surgeries during the time in question and may not have believed that he was capable of giving the plaintiff his full attention in light of surgical involvement with the other patients.

    VERDICT
    The jury found for the plaintiff in the amount of $6 million which was increased to $7.5 million with the addition of delay damages.

     

    This informational piece was prepared by Monheit, Silverman & Fodera. If you would like more information on this topic, call us at (800) 220-LAW1, or use the "Do I Have A Case?" button on this web site.


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