Medical Malpractice ­ Surgical Error - $750,000

Type of injuries: T9-T10 paraplegia
Court: Suffolk Superior Court
Judge or jury: Settled three weeks prior to scheduled jury trial

Damages awarded or settled: Structured settlement of $550,000 in cash and future payments over the plaintiff's expected lifetime totaling $2,702,526.44 (present value of $750,000)

Case Summary:
The minor plaintiff, at age 18 months, underwent cardiac surgery intended to repair her congenital heart defect known as tetralogy of Fallot. While the cardiac surgery was completely successful, plaintiff developed paraplegia at approximately the level of T9-T10 following the surgery. The plaintiffs contended that the defendant surgeon and the perfusionist were negligent in that they failed to use adequate hypothermia during the cardiopulmonary bypass and further failed to maintain adequate flow rates and arterial pressures while the plaintiff was on heart-lung bypass.

The defendants, who included a world-renowned pediatric cardiac thoracic surgeon, contested any deviations from accepted standards of care and maintained that the operative note, anesthesia record and perfusion record demonstrated that the procedure was uncomplicated and that they utilized proper hypothermia and maintained proper flow rates and arterial pressures. Additionally, no subsequent treating physician was willing to opine that the plaintiff's paraplegia was attributable to any intraoperative error or malpractice. Complicating the case was the fact that the defendant surgeon is considered to be one of the pioneers in the field of repair of tetralogy of Fallot and was largely responsible for creating the standards of care utilized in such surgery. The defendants were prepared to call as expert witnesses other renowned experts in this field.

Fortunately, the minor plaintiff suffered no anoxic brain damage and is currently 12 years old and a straight-A student.