On February 6, 2018, a Baltimore medical malpractice jury returned its verdict in favor of the plaintiff in the amount of $500,000 in a Baltimore medical malpractice case in which the plaintiff alleged that the defendant surgeon negligently clipped the common bile duct during her gallbladder removal surgery. The defense argued that the defendant surgeon did not cut the plaintiff’s common bile duct during surgery but rather the plaintiff’s common bile duct injury was due to an inflammatory or infectious process that began before the surgery and continued after the surgery.
The 56-year-old married plaintiff had her lap chole operation (laparoscopic cholecystectomy) in October 2014 that was performed by the defendant surgeon. The surgery was necessary because the plaintiff’s gallbladder was gangrenous and her common bile duct was infected, which complicated her surgery.
Four days after surgery, medical testing indicated that the plaintiff had either a blockage or a leakage, although a radiology study at that time showed her common bile duct to be intact (hence, opening the window for the defense to argue that the defendant surgeon had not injured the plaintiff’s common bile duct during surgery). The radiology study, however, was not sufficient to positively determine if the clips placed during the surgery were actually placed on the common bile duct. The plaintiff required repair surgery in December 2014.
The $500,000 Baltimore County medical malpractice verdict is noteworthy for several reasons: Baltimore County is known for being a conservative jurisdiction in which jurors tend to award less damages than in some other Maryland jurisdictions, such as Baltimore City; the plaintiff’s Baltimore medical malpractice lawyer did not submit to the jury the plaintiff’s medical bills that totaled approximately $110,000; and, there was no claim for permanent harm inasmuch as the plaintiff fully recovered after about four months of pain and suffering, and she was only left with a scar.
The Baltimore medical malpractice plaintiff called only one medical expert to testify on her behalf at trial, who testified that the plaintiff’s common bile duct was either cut or clipped at some point during the surgery. The plaintiff’s expert was unable to identify precisely when the injury occurred or precisely how the injury occurred. The defense called four medical experts to testify during trial, which resulted in some discrepancies between their testimony.
The defense’s strategy in having four medical experts testify during trial fed into the plaintiff’s medical malpractice attorney’s plan to emphasize to the Baltimore medical malpractice jury that they had a choice to make: either apply the standard of care that protected doctors (as testified to by the defense medical experts) or apply the standard of care that protected the patient. The Baltimore medical malpractice jury chose the latter, which promotes patient safety.
A portion of the deposition testimony of the surgeon who performed the repair operation was read to the jury in which he stated that he believed the injury to the plaintiff’s common bile duct occurred sometime during the original surgery (the repair surgeon formulated his opinion without the benefit of reviewing the radiology study after the original surgery and without reading the defendant surgeon’s operative report).
The Baltimore medical malpractice jury deliberated for only 40 minutes following the six-day trial before finding in favor of the plaintiff, awarding noneconomic damages only.
If you or a loved one suffered serious harm as a result of surgical malpractice in Maryland or in another U.S. state, you should promptly find a medical malpractice lawyer in Maryland or in your state who may investigate your surgical malpractice claim for you and represent you or your loved one in a surgical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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