Wednesday, March 1, 2000

$20.5 Million Dollar Medical Malpractice Verdict for Failure to Timely Treat Retinal Detachment

Amos Gern and John Ratkowitz, obtained a jury awarded of $17 million on behalf of a 58 year old patent attorney left blind in one eye following negligent treatment by a retinal surgeon in September and October of 1995.

The unanimous verdict, reached on February 25, 2000, before the Honorable F. Michael Caruso, also awarded $3.5 million to his wife on her per quod claim, bringing the entire verdict to $20.5 million dollars.

The plaintiffs alleged that the defendant retinal surgeon negligently delayed laser photocoagulation surgery on the plaintiff's left eye when it developed a torn retina on September 28, 1995.

The jury found the defendant should have performed prophylactic laser surgery on the left eye, which would have prevented a later retinal detachment. The jury also determined that the doctor improperly failed to inform the plaintiff of the urgency and danger posed by delaying the laser surgery for the torn retina. Thus, instead of an immediate procedure, plaintiffs alleged that the defendant negligently arranged for the patient to return for treatment on a subsequent date that ultimately proved to be too late.

Further, the plaintiffs alleged that the defendant failed to see the plaintiff and treat more significant symptoms, involving smokey vision and halos around lights after the plaintiff called and reached the doctor's office between the two visits.

By the time the plaintiff arrived for his laser procedure, it was discovered that the original torn retina had become detached at the very location originally discovered to be damaged, and two additional tears had occurred in the retina. As a result, a simple office procedure involving the laser photocoagulation, or cryotherapy, could no longer be performed, and the plaintiff needed a scleral buckle operation, with cryopexy, to reattach the retina to the back of the eye, in an extensive operative procedure.

The plaintiffs also alleged that the defendant was negligent in the performance of the scleral buckle operation, in that he applied excessive cryopexy to the left retina, which caused an inflammatory process known as proliferative vitreoretinopathy (PVR). During the next two years following the surgery, the plaintiff developed severe double vision, a permanent dilated pupil, loss of blood supply to the iris, a macular pucker with distorted vision, and deteriorating vision with a continuing inflammatory process, causing the retina to continue to separate and detach.

Ultimately, the plaintiff went through a vitrectomy (involving replacing the vitreous of the eye with a gas bubble) and other extensive retina surgery, which failed and resulted in a totally detached retina. As a result, the plaintiff completely lost his sight in January of 1998, and developed a shrunken eye which will require cosmetic correction by use of a glass eye or a hand-designed shell cover, which keeps the eye from continuing to shrink and wither. Plaintiff's spouse received a substantial per quod award $3.5 million.