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Doctor's surgical errors are the basis for $1.52 million award

When a surgeon commits a careless mistake during surgery and causes an unexpected injury to the patient, the surgeon has a duty to take reasonable measures to repair and stabilize the injury. It is standard procedure to check the major systems affected by the procedure to make sure that there are no injuries. If the physician fails to do what is reasonably possible to correct the injury, and if the patient suffers serious damage from that failure, then the surgeon is liable under Louisiana law for the value of the injuries suffered as a result of those surgical errors.

Those are generally the facts upon which a jury entered a verdict of $1.52 million in favor of the plaintiff patient and against the surgeon. The six-member jury unanimously agreed with the plaintiff's contention that the defendant failed to repair a damaged bowel that he carelessly injured in the course of performing a hysterectomy. Due to the doctor's negligence, the plaintiff had to wear a colostomy bag for seven months, and she had to suffer through further abdominal surgeries.

Surgical experts were important in proving the plaintiff's case. They testified that it was negligence for the defendant to fail to locate and repair the damaged bowel. This caused an infection in the intestines, which was discovered too late to prevent the severe damage to the intestinal tract. The defendant's counsel stated that the defense intended to file an appeal.

During the trial, the defense also pointed to the doctor's stellar prior reputation. The plaintiff's counsel, however, responded correctly by agreeing that the doctor was competent but pointing out that the trial was strictly dealing with one discrete event involving surgical errors that could be made by the best of physicians on any given day. Because the average juror throughout the country and in Louisiana usually decides in favor of a doctor, suggestions of his or her incompetency during a trial must be handled with great care.

Source: timesunion.com, "Delanson woman wins $1.52M malpractice jury award", Claire Hughes, Mar. 3, 2016

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