$5.5 Million Award to Family of Bypass Surgery Victim

Medical malpractice lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm report on a recent unanimous jury verdict out of Maryland that awarded the plaintiff $5.55 million for medical negligence during and after an open-heart coronary bypass surgery. The patient died shortly after surgery, and the malpractice suit was brought by her daughter.

The deceased patient, Velda Faye Richardson, underwent open-heart surgery in February 2011. Just before the surgery was completed surgeons placed pacing wires on her heart, and she recovered as expected, scheduled to be released from the hospital the following week.

About five days later, however, a nurse went to remove her pacing wires, and a few minutes after the removal Richardson became short of breath and began bleeding severely from her chest. Pacing wires are normally clipped off at skin level and left in internally or surgically removed. Just a few short minutes after nurses removed the wires Richardson started losing consciousness, told the nurses she thought she was dying, and ultimately became unresponsive.

During trial evidence showed that, when the wires were pulled from Richardson one or more lacerated or cut her newly-implanted vein graft. This laceration caused the profuse bleeding and prevented the heart from receiving blood, resulting in her death. Her surgeon testified that he did not remember precisely where the wires were placed on Richardson during the initial procedure or how many wires were used.

Not one member of the surgical team could even remember who placed the pacing wires in Richardson, neither were there records indicating such information. Her daughter successfully argued that this lack of information and record keeping showed that her mother suffered from inadequate care at the hospital and at the hands of the medical team, directly leading to her death.

In a similar case which concluded last year, a former police lieutenant was awarded $178 million after suffering from devastating medical negligence at Memorial Hospital Jacksonville. The man, Clay Chandler, underwent laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery in 2007. The day after his surgery, Chandler, who was once heralded as the next County Sheriff, suddenly collapsed from respiratory failure and rushed to critical care.

Chandler remained in critical care for eight days, during which time fluids leaked from his bowels into his abdomen. The leak was ultimately fixed with surgery, however, the more than week-long delay caused irreversible, devastating damage in Chandler’s body. By the end of the eight days his blood pressure dropped so low he had a “low-flow stroke,” and slipped into a coma for over two weeks.

While he was in the coma no one ever put lubricate drops in Chandler’s eyes, which is required, causing him to suffer a burned retina; he is now permanently blind as a result. Medical experts testifying in this case stated that these oversights were the result of inexperienced, extraordinarily poor care – that most doctors, adhering to standard levels of care, would have taken Chandler back into surgery as soon as he started showing symptoms of bowel leakage, not eight days after.

Today, Chandler cannot feed, clean or bathe himself, nor can he walk or speak intelligently. At the time of the procedures, his physician, Dr. DePeri, had performed only 21 bariatric (weight-loss) surgeries and had taken only one class. He continues to perform bariatric surgeries at Memorial Hospital Jacksonville.

In his lawsuit, Chandler alleged malpractice as well as fraud on the part of Memorial; fraud because of the hospital’s false advertising of its bariatric center, such as pamphlets and informational forums which implied that Memorial had a “team” of doctors and nurses committed to bariatrics. He argued that the hospital knowingly paid an inexperienced surgeon, DePeri, to perform procedures he was not accredited for, and that all members of the “team” were in fact independent. Chandler won $178 million in his case, however, he would trade it all to be the man he was before his surgery.

Medical malpractice lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm have been advocating on behalf of patients injured by negligence medical teams for over two decades and have won millions for our clients. If you or a loved one was seriously injured through medical negligence or blatant malpractice, you have important legal rights, and may be entitled to compensation through a lawsuit against the responsible doctors, nurses, or hospitals.