Posts Tagged ‘Verdicts’

Fatal Plastic Surgery Case Results in $3.1 Million Settlement, but Jury Returns Verdict in Favor of Non-Settling Anesthesiologist

May 12, 2010

In March of 2005, Kathleen Cregan left her home in Limerick, Ireland to embark on a journey to the United States. She was heading to New York where she underwent a face lift by Dr. Michael Sachs. Wanting this surgery to be a surprise for her husband, she had told him that she was leaving home for a few days to attend a business course in Dublin.

Just hours after the completion of the face lift procedure, Ms. Cregan collapsed in the clinic bathroom from a blood clot that had formed overnight, which had passed from her pharynx into her trachea. Ms. Cregan quickly developed breathing problems and went into cardiac arrest, which resulted in brain damage.  Ironically, as the New York Times reported, Ms. Cregan later died on Saint Patrick’s Day.

Her family sued Dr. Sachs, as well as an anesthesiologist, Dr. Subbaro,  and a nurse, Susan L. Alonzo-Francisco, who were part of the medical team, for malpractice in State Supreme Court in Manhattan.

Dr. Sachs’s settled his portion of the lawsuit for $2.1 million last month. The case involving the nurse, Susan L. Alonzo-Francisco, was settled for $1 million on Friday. Dr. Subbaro proceeded to trial remaining steadfast that he was not negligent in his care of this patient. Even though the nurse had settled, the issue of her liability was submitted to the jury for determination.

The plaintiffs alleged that Dr. Subbaro had left the clinic and turned-over Ms. Cregan’s post-procedure care to Nurse Alonzo-Francisco, who, plaintiffs alleged, did not know how to utilize an endotracheal tube to alleviate breathing difficulties. It was also claimed that Ms. Alonzo-Francisco failed to dial 911 in a timely fashion.

The verdict: “late Friday afternoon, a six-member jury cleared [Dr. Subbaro] of responsibility in Ms. Cregan’s death. Jurors, who began deliberating on Friday morning, did not know of Ms. Alonzo-Francisco’s settlement, so they delivered verdicts exonerating her of responsibility as well. The settlement, however, will stand.”

So how did this lady, who lived on a farm in Ireland, come to be a patient of Dr. Sachs in New York?

Ms. Cregan found out about Dr. Sachs after reading an article about him in The Sunday Independent of Ireland, her family said. The article described him as “a leading cosmetic and facial reconstruction surgeon” in the United States, with a “highly confidential client list.”

But here’s what she didn’t know when she consented to his operating on her:

The article did not mention that Dr. Sachs had settled more than 30 malpractice lawsuits. But he was known as a master of generating publicity, even appearing on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” twice in the early 1990s. Dr. Sachs surrendered his license to practice medicine in 2008.

We have addressed this very issue of ‘Top Doctor’ does not necessarily mean best doctor. You simply need to do some homework on whom you are choosing to care for you or operate on you. Be an advocate for yourself – ask questions, don’t be embarrassed to do so. If  you have the time, do some research on the person you are entrusting with your health and perhaps even your life.

Former Dolphin O.J. McDuffie’s “Toe Trial” Results $11.5 Million Verdict

May 11, 2010

This from a report from Dolphins Central: In 1999, a wide receiver for the Dolphins, O.J. McDuffie, injured his toe during a game, after which he came under the care of former Dolphins’ physician, Dr. John Uribe.  What followed thereafter was a lawsuit filed in 2002 by McDuffie against Dr. Uribe claiming medical negligence by the physician.

After a multi-week trial, in which McDuffie presented evidence that, notwithstanding  demonstrable evidence of injury seen on MRI, McDuffie was cleared to play by Dr. Uribe too soon. He claimed that this ultimately led to tendon damage, subsequent surgeries and substantial financial loss as well as pain and suffering.  He retired only seven years after his career started.

The following is from Dolphins Central (note: this is directly quoted from the posting with no editorial comment by me – is it really needed?):

McDuffie played a TOEtal of 116 games for the Dolphins from 1993 to 2000, quickly becoming one of Dan Marino’s favorite targets. In 1998 he led the NFL with 90 receptions–the only Dolphin to ever lead the league in this category. McDuffie posted 415 receptions for 5,074 yards and 29 touchdowns in his career and also returned two punts for TDs.

“They jury awarded $10 million for lost earnings and $1.5 million of anguish… They were moved by the shattered dreams and career of Mr. McDuffie…

Since retirement, McDuffie hasn’t stopped. He has since founded the Catch 81 Foundation that is dedicated to raising money for children’s organizations.

I usually do not end my blogs with a quote, but for this piece, the author of this report for Dolphins Central, Matt Gullette, puts all this in some perspective – or at least his:

But it’s McDuffie’s sure hands and nimble feet that we’ll never forget. He always did have a knack for keeping us on our toes (puns-absolutely-intended).

Dare I say…. FINdication???

For a related story, see the report in

Cerebral Palsy Verdict: $23.3 Million – Minnesota – birth injury – delay in performing C-Section

February 28, 2010

This is a report from  

The family of a girl who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy as a result of a birth injury has been awarded $23.3 million by a Minnesota jury after suing a hospital for waiting too long to perform a Cesarean section.

The Minnesota cerebral palsy lawsuit was filed against Rice Memorial Hospital and Affiliated Medical Community Center by Elise Rodgers, as a result of alleged negligence during the birth of her daughter, Kylie, in June 2007. According to a report by Minnesota Public Radio, Rodgers claimed that negligent medical care caused the girl to suffer severe brain damage because doctors failed to act quickly once the fetal monitor warned the child was being deprived of oxygen during labor.

The family argued that Kylie’s umbilical cord was compromised, and that doctors should have performed a Cesarean before she suffered permanent brain damage. Kylie, who now has cerebral palsy as a result of the negligent care, requires constant suctioning of her airway, sometimes as often as every three to five minutes, in order to survive, according to the lawsuit.

In a verdict handed down earlier this month by a Kandiyohi County jury, Rodgers was awarded $10 million for the child’s future medical expenses, $1.7 million for past medical expenses, $1.5 million for future lost earnings and $10 million for disability, emotional distress and pain.

Many research studies are underway and new therapies are being developed for infants with cerebral palsy.  Nevertheless, many children are still born with this condition and its spectrum of disabilities.  When these injuries are the result of medical negligence by physicians, hospitals and/or other health care providers, the civil litigation system is there to provide for these special needs children.  Contrary to politically-charged statements by those on the right, juries do understand when these life-altering injuries are caused by negligence.  When they do and the care needs are properly presented, verdicts such as this in Minnesota are the proper result.

Anne Mitchell, Whistle-Blowing Nurse, Is Acquitted in Texas –

February 11, 2010

Just a few days ago – somewhat as a Johnny-come-lately it appears, I wrote about a nurse in Texas charged with a crime for reporting a doctor (anonymously) to a medical licensing board.   The nurse, Anne Mitchell, was acquitted today after a 4 day trial.  After digging out from under our second huge snow storm  for most of the day, I finally had a chance to check the news  and here it was – Anne Mitchell, Whistle-Blowing Nurse, Is Acquitted in Texas –  And GOOD NEWS it is.  The good people of Texas were able ot come to the right decision in less than an hour.

You may recall the story – Nurse Mitchell filed a complaint with the state medical board after she observed what she believed was unsafe medical practice by a physician at her hospital.  Turns out the doctor had a patient and close friend – the local sheriff.  Next thing Nurse Mitchell knew – she was facing criminal charges.

As we also reported, she and a fellow nurse (who had also been originally charged but against whom charges were dropped prior to trial) have filed a lawsuit against the doctor, the hospital, the prosecutor – anyone and everyone who had anything to do with the absurd prosecution.  That’s apparently going to be the second round- more to come on that one.

The prosecution charged that they had violated the statute by using their positions to obtain and disseminate confidential information, namely patient file numbers, with intent to harm the doctor, Rolando G. Arafiles Jr.

This charge is a third degree felony under Texas law and carries a maximum sentence of 10 years and a $10,000 fine.

Here’ s how the Times reporter, Kevin Sack, presented the arguments of the prosecution and the defense:

The prosecutor, Scott M. Tidwell, the county attorney, argued during the trial that Mrs. Mitchell had waged a vendetta to force Dr. Arafiles from the hospital almost since his arrival in April 2008.

But Mrs. Mitchell’s lawyers presented broad evidence that her concerns about the doctor were well-founded, and that she violated no laws or regulations by alerting the governmental body that licenses and regulates physicians.

The quote by her lawyer after the ‘not guilty’ verdict tells all you need to know if Nurse Mitchell intends to go forward with her civil lawsuit:

“We are glad that this phase of this ordeal has ended and that Anne has been restored to her liberty,” said Mrs. Mitchell’s lawyer, John H. Cook IV. “But there was great damage done in this case, and this does not make them whole.”

Good for her!  If you think going through a criminal prosecution with possible jail time and a fine is not ‘an ordeal’ – try it some time.  We’ll try to keep up on this story to let you know what happens with this civil lawsuit – why do I think I hear the word  “settlement”  – maybe because that’s what those who are liable for this fiasco should do if they have any common sense (which is debatable).

Healthcare providers, who are concerned about patient safety, should not be silenced by the threat of prosecution when they take steps to correct what they perceive to be a lack of quality care.  Nurse Mitchell should have been applauded for her action, not prosecuted.  At least this evening – she can rest comfortably – and get ready for Round Two – hope she knocks them out!

Bakersfield, CA: Severely Brain Damaged Sisters win $31 million « The Accident Lawyer

February 6, 2010

for all the good work MADD has done over these many years, we still hear of these seemingly endless and unnecessary tragedies. Bakersfield, CA: Severely Brain Damaged Sisters win $31 million.

This verdict resulted from a horrible auto accident in 2007.  Two young ladies, ages 25 and 16, were on their way to dinner and a movie when a drunk driver, returning his employer’s truck to the yard, ran a stop sign and stuck the girls’ car.

Torres was able to walk away from the accident with no serious injuries but unfortunately both sisters’ were rushed to the hospital where they both suffered from traumatic brain injuries. Rosie (16 years old according to the report), the driver of the car, stayed in a coma for six weeks and was left with only a partial brain.

Marta (25 years old) was able to return to work but she was permanently scarred and sustained problems with her memory, had no patience to deal with daily life, and started to become easily aggravated at work.

The oft-repeated but apparently unheard moral of these  seemingly endless stories?  If you want to drink, fine – but stay the hell off the road!  These type of verdicts grab headlines (and blogs) but lives are left shattered.  While the money may go to help these young people with future care and living (if you can call it that) needs, it will never give them back the lives they were enjoying before this tragic accident.

News: Verdict – Breast Cancer – $34,300,000 – Pennsylvania

January 8, 2010

Verdict Search announced today (see News), a verdict that was rendered by a jury in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas, PA on November 23, 2009.

Basically, the plaintiff, Donna Kendall, a 59 year old grocery clerk from Illinois, alleged that she had taken for a period of  just over 6 years estrogen-based Premarin, manufactured by Wyeth Pharmaceuticals  Inc. together with progestin-laden Provera, manufactured by Pharmacia & Upjohn Company, which later became a division of Pfizer Inc., to treat her menopausal symptoms, which had been recommended by her private physician.

In 1998, her physician suggested that she switch to a single drug, Prempro, which she took until the time she discovered a lump in her breast.

Kendall claimed that her cancer was the result of 11 years of taking this combination therapy.  Her attorneys put on substantial (and convincing – it would seem) evidence that these defendant manufacturers had spent a great deal of effort and money to discredit researchers, who were warning of the dangers inherent in this type of combination therapy.  The Verdict Search summary of the case reads in relevant part:

The plaintiff’s theory that the companies did not adequately warn of breast cancer risk focused on the defendants’ active steps to neutralize and discredit researchers. Counsel presented evidence attempting to show that the drug companies spent tremendous amounts of money making sure that the medical data outlining the cancerous effects of combination hormone therapy would not get through to physicians. To do this, the defendants hired a public relations firm to devise media plans in attempt to counter any perceived ill publicity about the drugs, which was done to protect sales and profits, according to plaintiff’s counsel.

The plaintiff’s pharmaceutical regulatory experts testified that the defendants were aware of a need to conduct a cancer study in response to the hormone drugs but failed to adequately do so. The experts also testified that the warnings on the Premarin, Provera and Prempro drug labels failed to adequately cite the risks of developing breast cancer.

The breakdown of the verdict is reported as being

$6,300,000 Personal Injury: compensatory damages

6,000,000 Personal Injury: punitive damages against Wyeth

$12,000,000 Personal Injury: punitive damages against Upjohn

No doubt an appeal was filed.  We will try to follow this case and report on its outcome.

Mass. family wins $15M med-mal suit against hospital « published by Lawyers USA Online

January 5, 2010

Thanks to a Facebook posting from our friends at Nurses for Lawyers, we just learned of a very large verdict ($15,000,000) rendered by a jury in Massachusetts in favor of the parents of a child, who died in 2004 following a series of complications after open heart surgery.  Having had their case rejected by a number of lawyers in Massachusetts, the family turned to a relative, the father’s cousin, California lawyer, James Fox.  The full story is reported by Lawyers USA Online.

Mass. family wins $15M med-mal suit against hospital « Lawyers USA Online.

It is a fascinating story of a family convinced that the physicians, who were attending their son, had done wrong and parents who remained relentless in their pursuit of the truth.  It is a tale of arrogance and some ‘interesting’ record-keeping.  This story plays itself out daily – doctors who are convinced that they can do no wrong and will never be found culpable for such losses are often their own worst enemies when subjected to the rigorous and objective judgment of jurors.