In 2007, an active lieutenant with his local Sheriff’s Department made the decision to undergo weight-loss surgery. At 6-foot-1 and 375 pounds, the risk of a routine laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery seemed slight compared to his many weight-related health risks. Then suddenly, the day after the procedure, he went into respiratory failure and had to be placed in critical care. For over a week, he showed signs of complications but doctors did not take him back into surgery to repair the problem for eight days. This was a serious medical error, even based on the testimony of the hospital’s own experts who admitted that most bariatric doctors would have performed the surgery as soon as the patient exhibited the symptoms, but certainly no later than six days after.
As a result of the delay in treatment, the patient’s blood pressure dropped and he experienced a “low-flow stroke,’ meaning his brain was not getting enough blood, causing him to remain comatose for two weeks following the surgery. Then, in another shocking medical mistake, doctors failed to give him eye drops while he remained on a respirator which resulted in a permanent loss of his eyesight. This avoidable complication was a clear breach of the standard of care.
The man’s family filed a medical malpractice suit against the hospital alleging medical negligence and fraud. Now brain damaged and confined to a wheelchair, this once active lieutenant has lost his ability to speak, walk and perform basic tasks such as feeding or bathing himself, but he understands what has happened to him. The family’s attorney insisted that this tragic outcome was the result of improper care by an inexperienced doctor. Specifically, the hospital advertises that its bariatric surgeons have performed upwards of fifty surgeries when, in fact, this man’s surgeon had performed only about twenty.
On January 23, 2012, after finding that the accreditation advertising was fraudulent and the care received by the patient in this case was negligent, a jury returned an award of approximately $178 million dollars in damages in favor of the patient and his family. The hospital has since indicated that they intend to appeal the verdict but the family’s attorney maintains that this is the appropriate outcome given the circumstances.
For families experiencing the devastation associated with serious medical negligence, it is important to investigate whether a medical malpractice claim is warranted due to the expense associated with long-term care. As an experienced medical malpractice attorney I routinely handle cases that involve catastrophic injuries, and have handled cases just like this. These cases are extremely complicated and require expertise that most general personal injury attorneys do not have.