Gallbladder Surgical Error Settles for $1 Million

2011 Medical Malpractice Trial Report

75-year-old woman dies after surgical error

The plaintiff was a 75-year-old woman who died on 10/25/05, from inadvertent transection and ligation of the blood supply to her liver during an elective gallbladder removal. The plaintiff had a medical history that included a pacemaker for symptomatic bradycardia, reflux disease, hypertension, hypothyroidism, high cholesterol, arthritis, and uterine fibroids.

On 10/24/05, the plaintiff presented to the hospital for laparoscopic cholecystectomy under the care of the defendant surgeon. The surgery was a planned, elective procedure for stones in her common bile duct. During the surgery, the gallbladder was found to contain a hard mass, to which ligaments and areas of small intestine were densely adherent. There was also significant, abnormal vascularity adhered to the gallbladder.

The defendant surgeon then elected to perform an open cholecystectomy. The small intestine was eventually freed from the gallbladder. However, during the procedure, biliary vascular structures, including the common bile duct, portal vein, and common hepatic artery, were transected by the defendant. Because of the intraoperative complications, the defendant contacted an outside surgeon who accepted transfer of the plaintiff for corrective surgery. The surgery completed at approximately 11:55 A.M. Part of the plaintiff’s claim was a delay in transfer, as the plaintiff was not transferred until 3:30 P.M.

Upon admission to the second hospital, the physicians found that there was a complete transection of the plaintiff’s common bile duct, as well as a complete transaction of the portal vein and common hepatic artery. She had no blood supply to her liver and her blood vessels were too severely damaged to repair. The corrective operation was terminated and the plaintiff was on supportive care. She died early the next morning from liver failure.

It was anticipated that the defendant and defense experts would testify that the plaintiff had abnormal gallbladder anatomy and a rare inflammatory process of the gallbladder called xanthogranulomatous. The defense was expected to argue that this disease process scars the gallbladder, liver, and surrounding organs, pulling the common bile duct and blood vessels into the gallbladder. Further, the defense was disclosed to argue that inadvertent transaction and ligation of blood vessels are risks of the procedure.

The parties settled the case for surgeon’s policy limits of $1,000,000.00. (Middlesex Superior Court)

Lubin & Meyer represented the plaintiff in this gallbladder surgical error lawsuit.

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