May 14, 2021

The Superior Court of New Jersey Appellate Division (“New Jersey Appellate Court”) ordered a new trial in a New Jersey medical malpractice case involving gallbladder removal surgery where the defendant surgeon left a portion of the gallbladder, stating “the jury was never provided the opportunity to decide whether defendant deviated from accepted standards of care by failing to notify plaintiff about the remnant gallbladder.”

The April 26, 2021 opinion held: “Viewing the verdict sheet as a whole, we are satisfied that it was “misleading, confusing, or ambiguous,” Ponzo, 166 N.J. at 490, as it could have prevented the jury from considering plaintiff’s primary theory of defendant’s liability that he deviated from the accepted standard of care by failing to notify her, and appropriately memorialize, that a remnant gallbladder remained. We are also satisfied that the court’s instruction did not cure the defect in the verdict sheet.”

The Underlying Facts

In August 2005, after experiencing abdominal pain, the plaintiff visited defendant Candido Deborja, M.D., who recommended and performed a surgical procedure known as a cholecystectomy to remove her gallbladder. Prior to the surgery, the plaintiff signed a consent form confirming that Dr. Deborja “explained the risks, benefits, and, alternatives of the treatment,” and that he informed her regarding the potential need to convert the surgery, initially planned to be performed with a laparoscope, to an open procedure. After the surgery, the plaintiff had a post-operative meeting with the defendant where he informed her that the surgery proved difficult and he needed to “open [her] up [to] complete” the operation.

The plaintiff had no serious abdominal issues following the surgery until after the birth of her son, approximately six years later, in September 2011. She testified that she experienced shortness of breath, sweating, and pain in the upper abdomen and stated that she thought it had something to do with her recent cesarean section. She visited St. Peter’s University Hospital and after various imaging scans, was informed she was fine and discharged. The plaintiff, however, continued to experience more frequent pain over the course of the ensuing years, which she described as feeling as if her “insides were on fire.”

After undergoing additional testing which failed to discover the source of her pain, the plaintiff visited the emergency room in September 2016 and was told that it was “likely that [her] gallbladder was still there.” Further diagnostic evaluations noted several stones in her bile duct. As a result, the plaintiff underwent a second surgery to remove what was described as a “remnant gallbladder,” which was performed by a different surgeon. After the second surgery, the plaintiff’s abdominal pain ceased.

Source Dennis v. St. Peter’s University Hospital, Docket No. A-0948-19.

If you or a loved one may have been injured due to a botched cholecystectomy in New Jersey or in another U.S. state, you should promptly find a New Jersey medical malpractice lawyer, or a medical malpractice lawyer in your state, who may investigate your cholecystectomy negligence claim for you and represent you in a cholecystectomy medical malpractice case, if appropriate.

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