A California medical malpractice jury returned its verdict against a cardiac surgeon in the amount of $12,390,000 in punitive damages on March 19, 2018, in addition to the $55,600,000 in compensatory damages that the California medical malpractice jury awarded to the plaintiff on March 1, 2018, due to the defendant cardiac surgeon leaving the operating room while his patient’s chest was still open and instructing his assistant (who was also his girlfriend) to close the man’s chest.
After the defendant cardiac surgeon left the operating room, the man experienced severe blood loss, resulting in the man suffering a catastrophic brain injury due to the lack of oxygen to his brain. Despite two calls to the defendant cardiac surgeon as he drove to a business meeting, the defendant failed to return to the hospital. Today, the man remains in a persistent vegetative state, though he can feel pain.
The California medical malpractice jury determined that the defendant cardiac surgeon leaving the operating room to attend a business luncheon outside of the hospital while his patient’s chest was still open was not only negligent but was also malicious, oppressive or fraudulent, thereby justifying the award of punitive damages. The hospital’s policies and procedures required that surgeons remain in the hospital until their surgical patients are in stable condition in the recovery room, or the care of the patent is transferred to a surgeon with comparable skills.
The compensatory damages award included $25 million for the patient’s pain and suffering in the past and in the future; $5.6 million for his medical bills; and, $25 million awarded to the man’s wife of 46 years, for her pain and suffering and her loss of consortium claim. Before the man suffered his catastrophic injuries, he was the primary caregiver for his wife, who suffers from dementia.
The defendant cardiac surgeon testified during the California medical malpractice trial that when he left the patient, the patient was in stable condition. The defendant testified that the man suffered an “extremely rare complication during surgery,” for which he was not responsible.
The plaintiff provided evidence during trial that from April 2010 to March 2012, the defendant cardiac surgeon had performed 749 surgeries, many of which involved his assistant closing the patients’ chest after the defendant left the operating room. The plaintiff provided testimony from the director of surgical services that she had confronted the defendant cardiac surgeon several weeks before the plaintiff’s surgery, regarding the defendant leaving the operating room before another patient’s chest was closed, and advising the defendant that he needed to return to the operating room. According to the witness, the defendant cardiac surgeon cursed at her, told her to get out of his way, and told her, “You guys are idiots.”
The defendant cardiac surgeon reportedly was not in the courtroom on March 1, 2018, when the California medical malpractice jury found him liable for the harm suffered by the plaintiff.
If you or a loved one suffered serious harm as a result of medical negligence in California or in another U.S. state, you should promptly find a California medical malpractice lawyer, or a medical malpractice lawyer in your state, who may investigate your medical negligence claim for you and represent you or your loved one in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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