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Georgia Jury Awards $1.57 Million in Gynecological Medical Malpractice Suit

attorney speaking to juryBelieving she was undergoing a simple laparoscopic procedure to increase fertility, an Augusta, Georgia woman has finally received some closure to the years’-long legal battle over the unexpected and unacceptable treatment she received during her recovery. On June 11, 2015, a Superior Court jury sitting in Richmond County awarded a sizable $1.57 million verdict in favor of the plaintiff, who filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against not only her OBGYN, but the medical practice wherein the procedure was performed.

Moreover, the jury took exception to the provider’s apparent lack of recognition of so-called “classic” symptoms of bowel perforation, resulting in the aggravation of an already life-threatening situation.

Details of medical malpractice verdict

In November, 2011, the 36-year old Georgia plaintiff sought the care of the defendant for purposes of optimizing her fertility and increasing her chances of a successful and healthy pregnancy. Oftentimes, women experiencing infertility are simultaneously grappling with the effects of a condition known as endometriosis, which causes the problematic growth of uterine tissues in areas outside of the uterus – thereby preventing successful fertilization and implantation. Other reasons for laparoscopic gynecological surgery could include the presence of scar tissue, fibroid tumors, or abnormalities of the Fallopian tubes and ovaries. In any event, these procedures require precise maneuverability within an extremely small pelvic cavity – and damage to surrounding organ systems is a major risk factor for patients enduring this type of operation.

In the case of the plaintiff, she underwent a laparoscopic procedure in the office of her practitioner, Augusta OBGYN. Within hours, she began to experience symptoms including a high fever, rapid heartrate, and lower abdominal pain. Despite relaying these symptoms to the attending physician in the local emergency room, she was inexplicably sent home. A few days later, she returned to the ER with an elevated white blood cell count, a severely distended abdomen, vomiting, and unrelenting pelvic pain.  At this point, the plaintiff was finally admitted to the hospital, but her OBGYN did not order a CT scan of the area for another two days.

In the end, the plaintiff was diagnosed with a bowel perforation, which required two additional surgical procedures to correct.

Jury finds OBGYN liable for malpractice

Medical malpractice is a sub-set of the doctrine of negligence that centers on unreasonably dangerous conduct by the medical community. A plaintiff may file a medical malpractice claim against an individual doctor or nurse, or against a facility, practice, or hospital for failing to properly monitor its practitioners.

In this case, the jury considered two possible theories of malpractice: (i) whether the OBGYN committed malpractice by perforating the patient’s bowel, or; (ii) whether the OBGYN committed malpractice by failing to properly diagnose the patient with the perforation.

In the end, the jury concluded that the OBGYN’s negligence indeed occurred in the latter scenario, and congruently awarded the plaintiff a seven-figure verdict. In sum, the jury concluded that a bowel perforation is not necessarily malpractice, as it is a common and unfortunate collateral effect of laparoscopic surgery. However, failing to recognize the signs of perforation (i.e., infection, fever, abdominal distension) – and failing to admit and treat the patient as quickly as possible – amounted to unreasonably dangerous conduct by the gynecologist, and the practitioner was made to ultimately correct the error accordingly.

  1., Richmond County jury awards woman $1.57 million for diagnosis error in medical malpractice case,

  2., Laparoscopy,

  3., Laparoscopic bowel injury: incidence and clinical presentation,