Matt Birch and David Morantz obtained a rare plaintiff’s verdict in a medical negligence trial in Johnson County, Kan., on April 19, 2010.
The trial involved a surgeon’s failure to continue to observe a patient who had undergone a laparoscopic band (“lap-band”) procedure the prior evening. After the surgeon sent the patient home around mid-morning, she lost the use of her legs that evening and was rushed to the emergency department at North Kansas City Hospital, where doctors diagnosed her with two bowel perforations.
Because bowel perforations are recognized complications of laparoscopic procedures, the negligence alleged at trial concerned the doctor’s failure to consider the possibility of bowel perforation in light of our client’s vital signs trends. Specifically, she had a low-grade fever that decreased after taking Tylenol, an increased pulse, and a blood pressure that decreased after surgery but rebounded slightly just before discharge. In light of our client’s surgical history, which involved multiple abdominal procedures, we alleged that the surgeon should have had a heightened suspicion for a bowel perforation because of extensive adhesions that resulted from the prior procedures, and that required removal before the lap-band surgery could be completed. It is well known that taking down or “lysing” adhesions increases the risk of bowel perforation.
Our client sought recovery for medical expenses for a lengthy stay that resulted from the delayed diagnosis. She also sought non-economic damages resulting from the delayed diagnosis.
The doctor claimed that our client’s vital signs changes were consistent with the body’s normal postoperative response, that he examined our client’s abdomen before sending home, that our client was laughing, in good spirits, and with no complaints of abdominal pain or tenderness upon discharge, and that the perforations occurred after our client went home.
The jury awarded our client $178,960.90, with $103,960.90 in medical expenses and $75,000,00 in non-economic damages. The verdict followed a settlement reached before trial with the facility that provided nursing care relating to the lap-band surgery.