A jury recently awarded a 3.5 million dollar verdict in Fredericksburg Circuit Court to a plaintiff who underwent gastric bypass surgery (stomach staple surgery) and suffered brain damage. One doctor, President of the American Society for Bariatric Surgery, testified that a leak from the plaintiff’s gastric bypass surgery caused peritonitis and a septic reaction that lead to the brain getting too little oxygen.
The defendant doctor called an expert out of North Carolina who is a former president of the same society and chief investigator for the National Center for the Assessment of Bariatric surgery. The defendant’s expert said that the problem was a result of pneumonia and lung failure, not from the botched gastric bypass. The defendant’s expert, out of North Carolina, actually was a mentor of the plaintiff’s expert and was credited generally with inventing the procedure that was used in the gastric bypass surgery in question. However, the jury saw through the smoke screen of the defense and awarded 3.5 million dollars, apparently agreeing with the expert who was the protÃ©gÃ© of the “mentor” doctor.
What I found interesting about the trial report out of Fredericksburg (this was not my case) was that the “mentor” expert out of NC was also a doctor who had briefly treated one of my clients who had suffered a botched gastric bypass. The “mentor” bariatric surgeon had actually booted my client from his medical clinic solely because she asked him after an appointment if he would help her because she was trying to bring a claim against the doctors that had botched her original gastric bypass. My client was shocked when this doctor told her that he would no longer treat her and basically refused to see her again. When my client called me, I had trouble believing this story and I tried to communicate with the doctor. My calls were never returned. I learned that the doctor was actually at one time on the board of medicine for the State of North Carolina, and had great credentials, but this is something that a physician is never suppose to do (discharge a patient simply because of learning that the patient has a potential claim against another physician).
The moral of this tale is that many doctors have a bias and ax to grind against people that get injured from medical negligence — even if the patient is simply a victim. To think that your doctor would discharge you as a patient simply by learning that you have a claim against another doctor or hospital for blatant medical negligence is absurd!
At our practice as personal injury lawyers, we learn things about some physicians in the local area that our clients/patients of the doctor are unaware of. For one thing, we see doctors in depositions in a different atmosphere than one of examining a patient where bedside manner is important. Yes, some physicians can be complete jerks, but I will admit that some physicians are great people and have excellent integrity.
After much personal injury litigation, I can assure the public that many doctors with the finest credentials can give testimony that is totally lacking any credibility, so credentials will not carry the day (sometimes) in the real world of jury trials. Many times juries can find the truth despite any expert’s credentials.