$650,000: Doctor Nicked Bowel During Surgery Causing Deadly Infection

CASE DESCRIPTION:  Defendant was admitted to the hospital for abdominal pain and had bowel surgery.  During the surgery, the Decedent’s bowel was scratched.  The Decedent developed a post-operative infection.  Sadly when the infection was finally discovered is was too late for the Decedent.  A cause of action was brought against two doctors and the hospital.  The Defendants disputed their own liability and whether what had transpired was malpractice.

RESULT:  $650,000.00 total settlement

Decedent, Ensley K., was admitted to the hospital for severe abdominal pain on November 24, 1989.  After initial testing was performed, it was determined that there was an intestinal blockage and exploratory surgery would be done.  While in the surgery, Defendant Dr. Robert S. nicked the bowel, which he then repaired.  However, Dr. Robert S. provided the patient with no antibiotics.  Subsequently, during recovery, Mr. Ensley K’s condition began to worsen.  Plaintiffs, Mr. Ensley K’s surviving wife and daughter, began to notice the deteriorating condition in their husband/father.  Despite the urging by Plaintiffs that something was wrong, Defendant doctors and hospital personnel failed to respond.  Eventually, Mr. Ensley K. was diagnosed with having a mixed synergistic infection which, by the time diagnosed, was too late to reverse.

Plaintiff claimed that Dr. Robert S. breached the standard of care by not providing antibiotics to Mr. Ensley K. after nicking the bowel in surgery, and failed to identify and address signs of infection as they developed in the 48 hours post-operatively.  The infection was the direct cause of death.

Plaintiff contended that St. Jude Hospital and Dr. Martin C. were also liable because they failed to properly identify and address signs of infection post-operatively.

Dr. Rober S. premised his defense on the theory that it was not below the standard of care to fail to give antibiotics despite nicking and entering the obstructed intestine during the surgery.  Thereafter, the patient’s infection progressed too rapidly to detect and address in time to save him.  Additionally, Defendant claimed that the death resulted from a pulmonary embolism unrelated to the infection.

Defendants Dr. Martin C. and St. Jude Hospital contended that they did not breach the standard of care in failing to notice signs of infection as they developed post-operatively, and that even if they could have identified the infection sooner, it could not have prevented Mr. Ensley K’s death due to the swift moving clostidial infection.

TYPE OF CASE:  Medical Malpractice; Wrongful Death

INJURIES:  Mr. Ensley K’s death was caused by a post-operative clostidial infection resulting from a recent surgery.

DATE & LOCATION OF INCIDENT:  On 11/27/89 at 7:08 p.m. in St. Jude Hospital, Fullerton, California.

PLAINTIFF’S AGE:  Decedent – 55 at the time of the incident.

OCCUPATION:  Decedent – School Principal

Wylie A. Aitken & Richard A. Cohn
For Plaintiffs – Janet K. & Trenna H.

Marshall Silberberg
For Defendant – Robert S., M.D.

Larry Pleiss
For Defendants – St. Jude Hospital

Jim Rinos
For Defendant – Martin C., M.D.