Medical Verdicts

Woman loses both legs after salpingectomy: $64.3M award

Notable judgments and settlements


Woman loses both legs after salpingectomy: $64.3M award
Due to an ectopic pregnancy,
a 29-year-old woman underwent laparoscopic salpingectomy in October 2009. A resident supervised by Dr. A (gynecologist) performed the surgery. Although the patient reported abdominal pain and was febrile, Dr. B (gynecologist) discharged her on postsurgical day 2.

The next day, she returned to the emergency department (ED) with abdominal swelling and pain. Dr. C (ED physician), Dr. D (gynecologist), and Dr. E (general surgeon) examined her. Dr. D began conservative treatment for bowel obstruction. Two days later she was in septic shock. Dr. E repaired a 5-mm injury to the sigmoid colon and created a colostomy. The patient was placed in a medically induced coma for 3 weeks. She experienced cardiac arrest 3 times during her 73-day ICU stay. She underwent skin grafts, and suffered hearing loss as a result of antibiotic treatment. Due to gangrene, both legs were amputated below the knee.

At the trial’s conclusion in January 2014, the colostomy had not been reversed. She has difficulty caring for her daughter and has not worked since the initial operation.

PATIENT’S CLAIM The resident, who injured the colon and did not detect the injury during surgery, was improperly supervised by Dr. A. Hospital staff did not communicate the patient’s problem reports to the physicians. Dr. B should not have discharged her after surgery; based on her reported symptoms, additional testing was warranted. Drs. C, D, and E did not react to the patient’s pain reports in a timely manner, nor treat the resulting sepsis aggressively enough, leading to gangrene.

DEFENDANTS’ DEFENSE The patient’s colon injury was diagnosed and treated in a timely manner, but her condition deteriorated rapidly. The physicians acted responsibly based on the available information; a computed tomography scan did not show the colon injury. The injury likely occurred after the procedure due to an underlying bowel condition and is a known risk of the procedure. The colostomy can be reversed. Their efforts saved her life.

VERDICT The patient and Dr. E negotiated a $2.3 million settlement. A $62 million New York verdict was returned. The jury found the hospital 40% liable; Dr. A 30% liable; Dr. B 20% liable; and Dr. D 10% liable. Claims were dropped against the resident and Dr. C.

Related article: Oophorectomy or salpingectomy—which makes more sense? William H. Parker, MD (March 2014)

A woman was in labor for 2 full days
before her ObGyn performed a cesarean delivery. The child was born with abnormal Apgar scores and had seizures. Imaging studies revealed brain damage. She received a diagnosis of cerebral palsy.

PARENTS’ CLAIM The parents first requested cesarean delivery early on the second day, but the ObGyn allowed labor to progress. When the fetal heart-rate monitor showed signs of fetal distress 3 hours later, the parents made a second request; the ObGyn continued with vaginal delivery. The child was ultimately born by cesarean delivery. Her brain damage was caused by lack of oxygen from failure to perform an earlier cesarean delivery.

DEFENDANTS’ DEFENSE The case was settled during the trial.

VERDICT A $4.25 million Massachusetts settlement was reached.

A 33-year-old woman gave birth via cesarean delivery performed by her ObGyn. During the procedure, the patient’s bladder was lacerated and the injury was immediately repaired. The patient reports occasional urinary incontinence and pain.

PATIENT’S CLAIM The ObGyn should have anticipated that the bladder would be shifted because of the patient’s previous cesarean delivery.

PHYSICIAN’S DEFENSE The injury is a known risk of the procedure. The patient had developed adhesions that caused the bladder to become displaced. She does not suffer permanent residual effects from the injury.

VERDICT A $125,000 New York verdict was returned.

Related article: 10 practical, evidence-based recommendations for improving maternal outcomes of cesarean delivery. Baha M. Sibai (March 2012)

Parents sought prenatal genetic testing
to determine if their fetus had a specific genetic condition because the father carries a rare chromosomal abnormality called an unbalanced chromosome translocation. This defect can only be identified if the laboratory is told precisely where to look for the specific translocation; it is not detected on routine prenatal genetic testing. After testing, the parents were told that the fetus did not have the chromosomal abnormality.

The child was born with the condition for which testing was sought, resulting in severe physical and cognitive impairments and multiple physical abnormalities. He will require 24-hour care for life.

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