Bill Chamblee and Jessica Eaton successfully defended two doctors, a local gynecologic oncologist and an OBGYN who completed her medical training in Dallas at the time of the care at issue. The case involved post-operative care following a robotic-assisted total hysterectomy with bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy and pelvic lymph node dissection to remove the patient’s cancer. The patient initially did well post-operatively, but started having gas pain after eating a meal at home. A few days later, the patient returned to the hospital with abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. A CT scan was performed that showed the gallbladder was distended with gallstones, as well as a non-specific fluid collection. As the jury learned, this fluid collection could have represented a number of things, including normal post-operative fluid or potentially an infection. Since the patient had a normal white blood cell count and did not have a fever, the doctors were less suspicious of an infection. Given the patient’s symptoms started after having a burger, her pain was located in the right upper quadrant, and the presence of gallstones on the CT scan, the doctors were more suspicious of an inflamed gallbladder, or cholecystitis.
Over the course of less than two days in the hospital, the patient remained clinically stable while the doctors worked to find and diagnose the issue using their clinical judgment. This included imaging studies, lab work, and numerous evaluations by the doctors themselves. As a result of the doctors’ diligence, they were able to diagnose a bowel perforation before the patient ever showed any signs or symptoms of an infection or sepsis. As the jury learned, a bowel perforation is a known complication of a hysterectomy, and for which Plaintiff’s own expert was not critical of our doctors. The patient’s bowel was subsequently repaired and the patient is doing well now, and by all respects is healthier today due to being cancer-free and leading a healthier lifestyle than before.
The only criticism that Plaintiff’s expert testified to was an alleged two-day delay in diagnosing the perforation. Ultimately, we were able to show the jury that our doctors exercised good clinical judgment in their care, treatment, and diagnosis of the patient and that the patient was stable at all times under their care. While bowel perforation is a known complication of hysterectomies, it is not always evident at the time of surgery. In fact, thermal injuries may not manifest until 5-7 days after surgery. This is why Plaintiff’s expert was not critical of the injury itself. In addition, regardless of when the perforation was discovered, the patient was always going to need the subsequent repair surgery.
Plaintiff claimed that as a result of this perforation and subsequent repair, she suffers from scarring and an urgency to use the bathroom a few times a month. Trial lasted for a week. Damages claimed and asked for in front of the jury were over $1.4 million. The jury deliberated for less than one hour and returned a unanimous defense verdict, allowing our two great doctors to go back to doing what they do best, caring for patients and saving lives.