Our client underwent laparoscopic gallbladder removal surgery by Bradford King, MD, in Fredericksburg, VA, after a lab test showed elevated liver enzymes. During the surgery the surgeon cut the wrong part and removed a segment of her bile duct. (The bile duct drains bile out of the liver and into the intestines. Bile helps the body digest food.) With bile draining into her abdomen she developed bile peritonitis and became very ill.
She called Dr. King's office on the afternoon of surgery and complained of pain. Dr. King's nurse told her that pain was normal. The nurse did not tell Dr. King about the call.
The patient called again five days after surgery and reported that her pain was not going way, that she could not keep any food down and that she had left shoulder pain. She asked for a change of her narcotic medication. A different nurse told her that this was normal. This nurse called in a new prescription of a different narcotic. This nurse did not tell the doctor about the call, either, even though one narcotic was being stopped and another started. The patient believed that the nurse was in contact with the surgeon and that the advice that this was "normal" was coming from the surgeon.
Nine days later the patient called again and spoke to the same nurse she had spoken to at day 5. This time she reported that she was spitting up black bile and that her pain had increased. The nurse told the patient to go to the emergency room and to bring the record with her when she saw the surgeon in follow up. The nurse testified at trial that this seemed "weird" to her but again, she did not tell the surgeon about the call or that she had now sent his patient to the emergency department.
The patient was admitted to a hospital in North Carolina, where she had a home. The surgeon there drained 4 liters of bile from her and started to operate. Once he began, however, he found that the injury from the gallbladder surgery was much worse than he envisioned when he started the surgery. He took some pictures and emailed them to a liver transplant specialist who told him to not do anything further and that he would do a full repair months later (the body had to “cool down” by this time because of massive infection from the buildup of bile.)
The patient had a total of three major surgeries and a major radiology procedure in the three years following the surgery. She can expect future surgeries, medical monitoring, and a life time of medication. We sued the surgeon and the medical group that he and the nurse worked for.
We turned down the insurance company’s offer of $600,000 before trial. The jury deliberated about two hours before finding the surgeon’s practice guilty of malpractice for the actions of the nurse. The jury did not find that Dr. King was negligent.