A U.S. veteran who underwent abdominal surgery conducted by the VA was recently awarded $9.47 million following a four-day non-jury trial before a federal judge. Until recently, veterans injured by VA doctors were prohibited from filing lawsuits against them. However, a change to the law now allows such medical malpractice lawsuits to move forward, in certain circumstances.
The settlement awarded the veteran $5 million in noneconomic or pain and suffering damages and $3 million for past and future medical expenses. Another $1.2 million was awarded to the plaintiff’s wife for loss of consortium. Below, we’ll discuss the case and why the judge felt that such a hefty figure was warranted in this case.
The plaintiff had a condition that eventually evolved into diverticulitis, an infection in the lining of the intestine that causes pain. In 2011, the pain became so severe that a doctor removed 90% of the infected area from his large intestine. In 2015, the patient was back in the hospital having suffered a hernia, or a breach of the intestine from the abdominal wall. The ensuing surgery was performed by a 4th-year resident under the supervision of another doctor. The surgery involved the repair of “adhesions” where the intestine becomes fused with the abdominal wall. The method used to remove the adhesions is called “electrocautery” and is an aggressive and potentially dangerous method of treatment.
Two days after the surgery, the patient was back in the hospital with complaints of pain at the surgical site and discharge from the incision. The patient underwent another procedure performed by a different surgeon in which additional portions of his intestine were removed. That surgeon described this procedure as “life-saving” and later testified that, after the initial surgery, the patient was left with hernias, severe infection, and abscesses. He opined that the initial surgeons’ failure to perform an appropriate post-operative inspection of the intestine caused the patient’s poor outcome.
Elements of medical malpractice
In this case, the doctors were alleged to have deviated from the standard of care in two main ways. First, they chose to perform electrocautery before they had exhausted or ruled-out more conservative, safer treatment methods. Secondly, the doctors failed to identify and properly react to the injuries suffered by the patient intraoperatively.
From a princess to a nursemaid
When a medical malpractice plaintiff is legally married, his or her spouse can file a separate action against the doctor for loss of consortium. Loss of consortium is the loss of physical intimacy in a relationship. In this case, the wife testified that, as a result of the surgeons’ negligence, she went from being treated as a princess by her husband to becoming his nursemaid. This testimony was repeated by the judge when he rendered his final decision on behalf of the plaintiff.
Talk to a Tampa Medical Malpractice Attorney Today
If you’ve been injured by a medical doctor or hospital staff, you may be entitled to recover damages for your injuries. Call the Tampa medical malpractice lawyers at Palmer | Lopez today to schedule a free consultation and learn more about how we can help.