It took 10 years for the case to be resolved, but an Alabama jury has awarded $6.7 million to a man injured when a hernia surgery went awry. The plaintiff and his wife sued a surgeon and his practice in 2003 alleging that the surgeon had perforated the patient’s small intestine and failed to repair the injury during a four-hour hernia operation in 2002.
The surgeon noted that he had punctured the outer layer of the plaintiff’s intestine during surgery but didn’t think it was deep enough to cause a problem. The night after the operation, the patient began to suffer excruciating abdominal pain. By the next day, the patient had a fever and elevated pulse, and his white blood cell count and urinary output had dropped. Two days after the surgery, his organs began to fail and he required a ventilator to breathe.
Despite the fact that the patient’s condition worsened after the surgery, the surgeon did not discover the perforation until four days later, when another physician suggested the surgeon determine whether the patient had an intestinal infection. A needle aspiration revealed the intestinal leak. Although surgery was performed that day to correct the problem, the infection had already spread.
The patient required three more surgeries and then developed severe bed sores resulting in permanent disability. The patient, who was 57 at the time of surgery, was no longer able to work, and his wife had to quit her job to become his caretaker. The jury awarded the patient $5.2 million, and his wife $1.5 million.