On January 16, 2014, after four days of trial and three hours of jury deliberations, a South Dakota medical malpractice jury returned its verdict in the amount of $776,000 against the defendant surgeon and in favor of a woman who suffered end-stage liver disease allegedly as a result of her surgeon’s medical negligence.
The woman’s medical malpractice lawsuit alleged that when the surgeon removed her gallbladder in December 2010, he negligently placed surgical staples on her right and left hepatic ducts instead of the cystic duct, thereby cutting off the flow of bile from her liver into her digestive tract.
The woman’s severely compromised liver function that resulted from the surgeon’s alleged medical negligence caused her to become seriously jaundiced and to suffer severe pain that resulted in her having to be hospitalized in May 2011. It was during her hospitalization that it was discovered that the negligently placed surgical staples were causing her problems. The staples were removed by a different surgeon but by that time she had end-stage liver disease and was placed on the liver transplant list. The woman moved into a nursing home in November 2012 due to her poor health.
Tragically, the woman was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease in December 2012. She died in August 2013. An autopsy was unable to conclude whether the 55-year-old woman died from Lou Gehrig’s disease or as a result of her liver failure. Her medical malpractice case did not allege wrongful death but rather sought compensation for her severe pain and suffering due to the original surgeon’s medical negligence.
The woman had filed her medical malpractice lawsuit against the original surgeon before her death. She insisted that her husband of 15 years continue with her medical malpractice lawsuit after her death. Her husband fulfilled his promise to his dying wife to prosecute the malpractice case to its conclusion.
The defendant surgeon insisted that he did not place the staples where the subsequent surgeon found them. The South Dakota medical malpractice jury evidently did not believe the defendant surgeon, as evidenced by the substantial verdict.
The day after the jury reached its verdict, the husband stated that he felt “relief — just relief” and that “It’s off my shoulders now … She said ‘don’t let it slip’ and I told her I would finish it. She was a great lady.” In describing his wife’s deteriorating condition following her gallbladder surgery, the husband stated, “She suffered a great deal. She was living with a death sentence … I drove over [to the nursing home] every day to see her smiling face. She’d smile as soon as she saw me.”
If you or a loved one suffered injuries or other harms as a result of medical malpractice in South Dakota or in another state in the U.S., you should promptly seek the legal advice of a South Dakota medical malpractice attorney (or a medical malpractice attorney in your state) who may investigate your medical malpractice claim for you and represent you in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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