Defense Verdict in Kings County

On May 25, 2012, Robert B. Gibson and Laura A. Del Vecchio received a defense verdict in Kings County Supreme Court on behalf of a gynecological oncologist and a major metropolitan hospital.

The gynecological oncologist performed surgery on the 72 year-old plaintiff’s decedent to remove a large cancerous ovarian tumor.  The decedent initially presented to the hospital for surgery upon referral by her prior treating gynecological oncologist, but was discharged because she requested a second opinion by a physician who did not have privileges at the hospital.  She returned several days later for the surgery.  There were significant discrepancies between the plaintiff’s testimony and the medical chart regarding whether the decedent and her family requested the second opinion and should have been discharged.  Plaintiff’s position was that the decedent never should have been discharged and when she returned to the hospital, she was not optimized for surgery as she was dehydrated and nutritionally depressed.  Plaintiff’s expert, who was also the decedent’s prior treating physician who referred her to the defendant hospital, testified that the surgeon and hospital staff did not properly prepare the decedent for surgery, mismanaged post-operative care and that the decedent died a “silent death” caused by a gradually decreasing blood pressure due to dehydration.

We were able to establish, through the records and the testimony of the defendant physician, that the decedent and her family did indeed request a second opinion and the decedent was discharged in stable condition to seek the opinion before returning to the defendant hospital for surgery.  We argued that the decedent was not dehydrated or nutritionally compromised at the time of the surgery as she was administered adequate fluids and was in the best achievable nutritional state prior to the procedure.  It was also established that the patient was appropriately managed after surgery, but suffered an acute event, likely a heart attack, which caused her death.  Neither side could definitively prove the cause of death as the decedent’s family refused an autopsy.

The jury deliberated for under a half hour and returned a unanimous verdict in favor of our clients.