On July 25, 2018, a jury in Arizona awarded $6,232,000 in compensatory damages and an additional $1,768,000 in punitive damages in favor of the plaintiff surgeon in his lawsuit against a Las Vegas medical malpractice lawyer and his law firm who had previously sued the surgeon for medical malpractice after the death of his patient.
The Arizona jury deliberated for just over one hour after a three-day trial during which the defendant medical malpractice lawyer defended himself.
The defendant medical malpractice lawyer had alleged in the underlying Arizona medical malpractice lawsuit filed against the surgeon that the surgeon willfully and maliciously caused the death of his patient during surgery. A federal medical malpractice jury found in favor of the defendant surgeon and determined that the patient had died from natural causes due to a pre-existing condition.
The defendant surgeon, a urologist who had practiced for 28 years without having been found to have committed medical malpractice during his long career, then sued the plaintiff’s medical malpractice lawyer and his law firm, alleging that his reputation had been harmed due to the unsubstantiated allegations of intentional wrongful professional conduct and that he suffered loss of earnings, emotional distress, and incurred substantial expenses in defending himself.
The patient’s wife testified during the trial of the surgeon’s lawsuit against the Nevada medical malpractice lawyer and his law firm that she never believed that the surgeon had intentionally caused her husband’s death and she further testified that her lawyer did not fully explain to her the allegations being made against the surgeon in the medical malpractice case.
As a result of her trial testimony in the lawsuit filed by the surgeon alleging that the defendants abused the legal system when they alleged malicious and intentional conduct by the surgeon, the surgeon’s lawyer asked the jury to not hold her responsible for the damages that the jury may award.
The Underlying Federal Medical Malpractice Allegations
The underlying federal medical malpractice wrongful death lawsuit alleged that “On July 13, 2012, . . . Dr. Trabucco evaluated Gerald Scharf at the Institute of Urology in Fort Mohave, Arizona.” Dr. Trabucco confirmed that Mr. Scharf had a “left upper pole renal mass. . ..” On September 11, 2012, Mr. and Mrs. Scharf and two of Mrs. Scharf’s daughters met with Dr. Trabucco to discuss surgery to remove the mass. At that time, Dr. Trabucco explained various complications and risks associated with such a surgery. Mrs. Scharf and her daughters averred that Dr. Trabucco did not tell Mr. Scharf “about the risks of paralysis or death” associated with the surgery. Mrs. Scharf and her daughters also averred that Dr. Trabucco did not tell Mr. Scharf “of the alternatives of not doing surgery or doing an ablation procedure.” Mrs. Scharf averred that Dr. Trabucco told Mr. Scharf that “he had to have all or part of [his] kidney removed either by a laparoscopic or open procedure.” However, one of plaintiffs’ expert, Dr. Danoff, testified that Mr. Scharf could have possibly lived for 5-10 years even if the mass were not removed.
On September 24, 2012, Dr. Trabucco performed a hand-assisted laparoscopic nephrectomy (removal of the kidney) on Mr. Scharf at the Valley View Medical Center. Mrs. Scharf averred that “[w]hen [she] first saw [Mr.] Scharf in the ICU post-operatively he could not move or feel his legs.” At 3:00 a.m. on September 25, 2012, Dr. Trabucco was informed that Mr. Scharf had no movement or sensation in his legs or feet. Dr. Trabucco arrived at VVMC around 7:00 a.m.
Mr. Scharf was transferred to Sunrise Hospital around 4 p.m. on September 25, 2012. Upon his arrival at Sunrise, an abdominal aortogram was done and the impression was that Mr. Scharf had total occlusion of the abdominal aorta. Mr. Scharf then underwent a second surgery, but on September 27, 2012, Mr. Scharf died. Mr. Scharf’s autopsy showed that he had “severe calcific aortic atherosclorosis, primarily at the aortic arch and abdominal aorta at the level of the branching of the renal arteries with small adherent thrombus.” Defendants’ expert, Dr. Treiman, opined “that Mr. Scharf’s outcome was attributable to his underlying atherosclerosis. . ..”
If you or a family member may be the victim of medical malpractice in Arizona or in another U.S. state, you should promptly consult with a medical malpractice attorney in Arizona or in your state who may investigate your medical negligence claim for you and represent you or your family member in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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