A wrongful death lawsuit following a plastic surgery death won’t be retried after the Georgia Supreme Court ruled the trial court was right in excluding certain evidence helpful to the plaintiff. The case of Robles v. Yugueros resulted in a verdict favorable to the defense. The plaintiff (the deceased patient’s widowed husband) argued that was largely because the trial court excluded testimony that bolstered his claim. Although the appeals court agreed with him, the state supreme court did not.
The facts giving rise to this case begin in June 2009 when the defendant performed a series of plastic surgery procedures on the patient, including liposuction, buttock augmentation, and abdominoplasty surgery. Following these procedures, the patient stayed in the hospital overnight and was discharged on the following day. Two days later, she was brought into the emergency room, complaining of severe nausea, abdominal pain, and vomiting. A physician prescribed her anti-nausea medicine and painkillers and instructed her to come back if her symptoms worsened.
Meanwhile, a radiologist examining the patient’s x-ray off-site noted the possibility of a condition known as “free intreperitoneal air” in the patient’s abdomen. This could be normal, but it could also be a sign of something far more serious. He recommended a CT scan and put this information in the patient’s electronic medical record, which was faxed to the hospital. However, by that time, the patient had already been discharged. Three hours later, she was still in extreme pain and, at the urging of the defendant surgeon, returned to the hospital. She was given more pain medication but no CT scan. It wasn’t until two days later that her surgeon ordered an abdominal x-ray that showed evidence of abdominal free air. Three hours later, she underwent surgery, during which the surgeon discovered her stomach had basically been torn open. The tissue was 95 percent dead. She died hours later.
Her husband, as the administrator of her estate, sued his wife’s plastic surgeon and the surgeon’s employer, alleging medical malpractice and ordinary negligence during the post-operative care of his wife.
In the pre-trial discovery phase, the plaintiff asked for a deposition of the employer as an organization. The company designated its board president and co-owner. In the deposition, this witness indicated she believed the plastic surgeon had ordered a CT scan. She testified that if you don’t know why a patient is experiencing pain, the proper standard of care would be to order a CT scan to glean more information. This statement was in fact very helpful to the plaintiffs because the plastic surgeon never at any point post-surgery ordered a CT scan. The board president’s own statement suggested the surgeon had breached the practice’s own standard of care.
Unsurprisingly, the defense sought to exclude this statement. The trial court granted this request, accepting the defense’s argument that the board president as an expert witness hadn’t been provided all of the information necessary to render an opinion.
Following a trial verdict in favor of the defense, the plaintiff took the matter before the Court of Appeals. He argued this evidence was not offered as expert witness testimony under state rules of evidence, but instead as a party’s admission against their own interest. The appeals court agreed and reversed.
However, the state supreme court determined the appellate court’s opinion didn’t accurately reflect the law, and the trial court did not err in its role as the gatekeeper of evidence. With this reversal, the justices eliminated the possibility of another trial.
As our wrongful death attorneys in Spartanburg know, there are some 15 million plastic surgeries performed each year, ranging from breast augmentations to Botox injections. Poor outcomes in these cases can include:
- Blood clots;
- Serious infections;
- Allergic reactions;
- Scarring; and
If you or a loved one has been injured by plastic surgery in North Carolina or South Carolina, we can help.
Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
Robles v. Yugueros, Oct. 31, 2016, Spartanburg Medical Malpractice Lawyer Blog
More Blog Entries:
Simms v. U.S. – Wrongful Birth Lawsuit and Collateral Source Rule, Oct. 19, 2016, Spartanburg Medical Malpractice Lawyer Blog