On September 30, 2015, after a two-week trial, a North Carolina medical malpractice jury returned its verdict in favor of the medical malpractice plaintiffs in the amount of over $7.5 million as a result of alleged negligent colon surgery that resulted in leaks that led to serious complications and injury. The verdict included $3.24 million in economic damages and $4 million for noneconomic damages (pain, suffering, etc.) awarded to the woman who had undergone the colon surgery, and $300,000 for the woman’s husband for his loss of consortium claim.
The $4 million noneconomic damages award will be reduced to $500,000, which is North Carolina’s cap on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases (unless the injury was due to recklessness, gross negligence, fraud, or resulted from malice).
The Alleged Facts
In June 2010, the plaintiff had part of her colon surgically removed because there was concern that the removed segment may have contained a cancerous mass (it was later determined that the segment removed was benign). According to the plaintiffs’ North Carolina medical malpractice lawsuit (the plaintiffs now reside in Florida), the surgeon who reconnected her colon after he removed a section of her colon left a leak that resulted in dangerous abdominal infections. The woman was ill throughout the summer of 2010 and into the fall, suffering from infections, internal bleeding, low blood pressure, and kidney failure, which required the woman to be hospitalized for many weeks, resulted in a six-week coma, and led to three additional surgeries. A fourth surgery repaired the colon leak and addressed other issues.
The woman alleged in her North Carolina medical malpractice case that she was left with chronic diarrhea and chronic abdominal pain due to medical negligence.
After the North Carolina medical malpractice jury returned its verdict in favor of the plaintiffs, the defense attorney expressed the defendants’ disappointment in the verdict and stated the defense contention that the plaintiff’s abdominal bleeding and kidney failure were not the responsibility of the defendants and not due to medical negligence; the defense attorney further alleged that the defendants had provided the woman with life-saving treatment.
One of the defendant physicians issued a written statement after the verdict in which he stated, in part: “I have been practicing surgery for 35 years [and I am rated] as being in the top third of surgeons in the U.S. … The public should consider the effect this verdict will have on the availability of medical care in this county. Securing and keeping high quality physicians is critical to the care of the population of the Greater Fayetteville area … I am confident in the quality of my care and feel my patients’ testimonials will bear me out.”
The defendant physician’s not-so-veiled threat to the citizens of the Greater Fayetteville area that the jury’s determination that he was negligent in his care of the plaintiff and that his medical negligence harmed the plaintiff may cause all county residents to be unable to find competent medical care in the future is both outrageous and arrogant: the Fayetteville medical malpractice jury did not consider or judge the general competence or character of the defendant physician, and its verdict does not reflect such, but rather the jury judged the matter before it based on the evidence and testimony it was presented with regard to the specific treatment provided to this particular plaintiff and whether such treatment met the standard of care required under the circumstances.
The defendant physician may be disappointed in the jury’s verdict, but that does not grant him the right to engage in fear mongering and to unfairly attempt to influence potential jurors in future medical malpractice cases in the Greater Fayetteville area who may be asked to judge the medical care provided to a patient who suffers harm as a result of alleged medical negligence – each patient harmed by possible medical malpractice and each medical provider accused of providing substandard care that causes harm are entitled to have their claims and contentions judged fairly by an unbiased jury based solely on the particular circumstances and facts of their case.
If you or a loved one may have been harmed as a result of medical malpractice in North Carolina, you should promptly find a North Carolina medical malpractice lawyer who may investigate your medical malpractice claim for you and represent you in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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