Spine Surgeon to Pay $12 Million for Malpractice

Dr. Alfred O. Bonati, owner of the Bonati Institute in Hudson, Florida, has been subject to numerous lawsuits throughout the last decade. Most recently, the doctor was ordered to pay $12 million to a man who was paralyzed by a series of unnecessary surgeries.

The lawsuit was filed by Gloria and William Clark, who were initially charged $175,000 for Bonati’s services. The husband is now 71 and permanently disabled, unable to walk and in constant pain. William Clark sought Bonati’s services in 2002 for agonizing back pain. At the time he was treated, Bonati required Clark to sign documents waiving his right to a jury trial. Because of this, the Clarks’ lawsuit ended up before an arbitrational panel of three members.

The couple alleged that the doctor performed eight unnecessary, dangerous, and excessively expensive surgeries on Clark to collect insurance money. Bonati has been subject to similar litigation since the early 1990s. In 1996, Bonati declared bankruptcy during a malpractice trial, which ended in 2001 to a sum of $8 million. Bonati admitted no liability.

In 2002, the Florida Board of Medicine investigated several complaints regarding Bonati. The Board later allowed Bonati to continue his practice under supervision of another surgeon, a stipulation that ended in 2005. In 2009 in federal court a woman sued Bonati for performing 13 surgeries in seven months. The surgeon’s spokespeople stated that Bonati and his team have performed upwards of 35,000 surgeries throughout his career.

Another patient, Kathy Scott, underwent an operation that caused severe hemorrhaging and permanently paralyzed her. Despite the complications, Scott was not transferred to a hospital or intensive care unit, but was merely left to lay in the recovery room in the Bonati Institute, unable to feel or move her legs. Bonati told Scott’s husband that he did not think a transfer was necessary, and that he recommended she undergo additional surgeries.

A second surgery was performed on November 6, 2010. Two weeks later, Scott was taken by ambulance to an airport and flown to a hospital. Neurosurgeons there said she had sustained an incomplete spinal cord injury. Alarmingly, Bonati’s state medical license is currently active.

In a similar story, a New Jersey man was recently awarded more than $22 million after a botched spinal surgery. The jury decided that the surgery he underwent in 1992 was both unnecessary and improperly performed. The surgeon performed a lumbar spinal fusion on the man, a procedure which he had never performed and which requires special hands-on training. During the surgery, metal rods were left unanchored and several wires snapped, rupturing the protective fluid surrounding the man’s spinal cord. The surgeon recommended a second, remedial surgery, although the man claims this additional procedure only made things worse.

Many spine surgery lawsuits stem from the undisclosed risks and complications associated with these operations. In one study, cervical spine surgery in nearly 70 patients led to postoperative neurological complications in more than 40 of those patients, who subsequently sought a lawsuit. Other injuries were observed in another 15 patients. The three most common malpractice claims included negligent procedures, failure to diagnose and treat, and lack of informed consent.

Some patients may consider laser spine surgery as a safer alternative to traditional operations, however, the increased safety is unfounded. These laser surgeries are just as dangerous, yet exceedingly more expensive. Professional wrestler Hulk Hogan can attest to this, as he recently filed a lawsuit seeking $50 million from the Laser Spine Institute. He alleges that his surgeries were unnecessary and performed negligently. He underwent six procedures in 19 months, which only temporarily relieved his pain. The relief was the result of using lasers to burn the nerves around his spine.

Spinal cord injury lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm warn those considering any type of spinal procedure of the current litigation surrounding these operations. If you or someone close to you was seriously harmed by negligent surgeons and medical care, you have important legal rights, and may be entitled to compensation for your losses.

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