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Surgical error allegedly led to loss of patient’s hands and feet

Amount:

$109,760,930

Type:

Verdict-Plaintiff

State:

Florida

Venue:

Hillsborough County

Court:

Hillsborough County Circuit Court, 13th

Injury Type(s):

other-sepsis; other-fistula; other-necrosis; other-fasciitis; other-physical therapy; other-necrotizing fasciitis; abdomen; epidermis-gangrene; amputation-leg (leg (below the knee)); amputation-foot; amputation-hand; gastrointestinal/digestive-bowel/colon/intestine, perforation

Case Type:

Medical Malpractice – OB-GYN, Surgical Error, Delayed Diagnosis, Delayed Treatment, Failure to Detect, Post-Operative Care, Gynecological Surgery

Case Name:

Lisa-Maria Carter v. Larry Roy Glazerman, M.D.; Florida Health Sciences Center, Inc., d/b/a Tampa General Hospital; and the Board Of Trustees Of The University Of South Florida d/b/a University of South Florida Health d/b/a University of South Florida College Of Medicine,
No. 12-CA-009942

Date:

January 26, 2018

Parties

Plaintiff(s):

Lisa-Maria Carter (Female, 45 Years)

Plaintiff Attorney(s):

Thomas J. Dandar;
Dandar & Dandar, P.A.;
Tampa,
FL,
for
Lisa-Maria Carter ■ Ken G. Dandar;
Dandar & Dandar, P.A.;
Tampa,
FL,
for
Lisa-Maria Carter ■ Timothy M. Dandar;
Dandar & Dandar, P.A.;
Tampa,
FL,
for
Lisa-Maria Carter

Plaintiff Expert(s):

John Merritt; M.D.; Life Care Planning; Tampa,
FL called by:
Thomas J. Dandar, Ken G. Dandar, Timothy M. Dandar ■ Bruce Rosenzweig; M.D.; OB-GYN; Chicago,
IL called by:
Thomas J. Dandar, Ken G. Dandar, Timothy M. Dandar ■ Joyce Eastridge; Economics; Tampa,
FL called by:
Thomas J. Dandar, Ken G. Dandar, Timothy M. Dandar ■ Steven Cooley; Life Care Planning; St. Petersburg,
FL called by:
Thomas J. Dandar, Ken G. Dandar, Timothy M. Dandar

Defendant(s):

Larry Roy Glazerman, M.D., 

Florida Health Sciences Center Inc., 

Board Of Trustees Of The University Of South Florida

Defense Attorney(s):

Louis J. La Cava;
La Cava & Jacobson, P.A.;
Tampa,
FL,
for
Board Of Trustees Of The University Of South Florida ■ None reported;
for
Larry Roy Glazerman, M.D. ■ Iva Valtcheva;
La Cava & Jacobson, P.A.;
Tampa,
FL,
for
Board Of Trustees Of The University Of South Florida ■ James J. Evangelista;
Bush Ross, P.A.;
Tampa,
FL,
for
Florida Health Sciences Center Inc.

Defendant Expert(s):

Richard Katz;
Life Care Planning;
St. Louis,
MO called by:
Louis J. La Cava, Iva Valtcheva ■ Richard Margolis;
OB-GYN;
Bethesda,
MD called by:
Louis J. La Cava, Iva Valtcheva

Facts:

On Nov. 1, 2010, plaintiff Lisa-Maria Carter, 45, a civilian intelligence expert for the military, went to Tampa General Hospital for what should have been outpatient surgery but resulted in complications that led to amputations of her hands and feet. Carter had been scheduled for surgery at Tampa General, which is the teaching hospital for the University of South Florida College of Medicine, to remove a benign ovarian cyst, so that she could be deployed to the Iraq war zone. She was told to have the person giving her a ride home to return in four hours. Prior to surgery, Carter had signed a hospital form stating that doctors use their independent judgment during procedures. Carter’s surgery was performed by University of South Florida (USF) OB-GYN Larry Glazerman, then Chairman of the Department for Minimally Invasive Surgery. After surgery, Carter’s blood pressure declined. Nurses gave her fluids, but her pressure remained low. The following day, she became incoherent, and doctors could not stabilize her blood pressure. The next day, when Carter was going to the bathroom, a 5-centimeter incision in her abdomen opened, causing a large amount of bloody discharge. At 11 p.m., her blood pressure was so low it could not be read, and septic shock was suspected. She was transferred to intensive care and soon went into organ failure. Hospital residents concluded that Carter should have an abdominal CT scan to determine the source of her symptoms. However, she had to be stabilized for transport before she could have the procedure. So ICU physicians gave her vasopressors, a drug that can increase blood pressure by cutting off blood circulation to the four extremities. At 4:30 p.m. the following day, Glazerman called for a trauma surgery consult. The surgeon arrived and ordered surgery immediately. At 7 p.m. the USF trauma surgeon concluded that there was a separation in Carter’s small intestine. The incision had led to the development of necrotizing fasciitis, otherwise known as flesh-eating disease. The trauma surgeon removed the separated part of the intestine and ultimately saved Carter’s life by cutting away the active flesh-eating bacteria, which had already destroyed the muscles, abdominal wall, and tissue. However, Carter required numerous additional surgeries to rid her body of the bacteria. Carter had received continued doses of vasopressors until the trauma surgery. The medicine had cut off blood flow to her limbs. As a result, after her recovery from the flesh-eating disease, gangrene set in, and she required amputation of both hands above her wrists and both feet above her ankles. Carter sued Glazerman, Tampa General Hospital and the University of South Florida College of Medicine. She claimed that Glazerman was negligent in his treatment constituted malpractice. As a state employee, Glazerman had sovereign immunity and was dismissed as a defendant. The case had two mistrials. During the first trial, Tampa General received a directed verdict in its favor. The court found that there was no evidence that its nurses committed malpractice and also found that the hospital was not responsible for the actions of USF or Glazerman. The hospital was thus dismissed. During the second trial, the jury could not reach a unanimous verdict. The case went to a third trial, with the University of South Florida College of Medicine as the only defendant. Although Glazerman had sovereign immunity, USF was still potentially liable for his actions. Carter’s counsel argued that during the cyst surgery, Glazerman negligently transected Carter’s small intestine. He closed her up without realizing what had happened. Counsel noted that the trauma surgeon who saved Carter’s life had referred to the separation in the intestine as an enterotomy, or surgical incision, not a tear. Counsel also said that during Glazerman’s surgery, he used a solution called Adept to prevent adhesions from forming. Carter’s OB-GYN expert concluded that Adept created a breeding ground for the bacteria pouring out from her small intestine. According to Carter’s counsel, ICU doctors had concluded that she was stable enough to transport for an abdominal CT scan but Glazerman repeatedly delayed the procedure and did not call for a surgical consult until 12 hours later. Carter thus remained on the vasopressors for about five hours. Carter’s OB-GYN expert said that if the abdominal CT scan or trauma surgery had occurred sooner, the diagnosis would have been discovered earlier, which would have prevented the flesh-eating virus from spreading. She also would not have required the extensive dosages of vasopressors that led to her amputations. An expert OB-GYN for the defense opined that Glazerman had only nicked the intestine and that the main opening was a tear that had occurred on its own. Defense counsel also maintained that Glazerman did not need to call for an abdominal CT scan, because it would not have shown the source of Carter’s condition.

Injury:

Carter required 11 surgeries from the trauma surgery through the middle of December. She remained unconscious from the time of the first surgery until the end of January. The following month, she underwent amputations above both of her wrists and just below both of her knees. While Carter was in the hospital, she developed a fistula that leaked fluid. As a result, she wears a bag to collect the fluid which must be changed daily. She also no longer has an abdominal wall. Instead, doctors created a skin sac to hold her intestines. On March 23, 2011, Carter was transferred to Johns Hopkins Medicine for rehab. She remained there until July 11, 2011, during which time she learned how to walk with prosthetic feet and use her prosthetic hands. She can currently walk approximately 200 yards at a time with the help of a walker but primarily uses a wheelchair. After two months in rehab, Carter returned to Florida. She has lived in multiple nursing homes ever since and has been in her current nursing home for the past six years. Carter requires 24/7 assistance for everyday tasks like eating, dressing and bathing herself. She can no longer work and is instead on disability. She also undergoes occupational and physical therapy. Carter sought recovery of past and future medical expenses, past and future lost earnings, and damages for past and future pain and suffering. Her counsel presented an expert economist, who said that her past and future lost earnings totaled $1.6 million. Counsel additionally called an expert life care planner, who said the cost of her life care plan was between $19 million and $22 million. During trial, Carter’s counsel suggested that the jury award her $4 million a year for pain and suffering for the rest of her life, which life tables estimated to be 30 years. The defense counsel called an expert life care planner, who stated Carter would only live six more years.

Result:

The jury determined that USF Health was negligent, and that Carter’s damages totaled $109,760,930. Under Florida’s sovereign immunity statute, Carter must seek recovery of all but $100,000 of the award through the Florida legislature in a separate claims bill.

Lisa-Maria Carter: $1,920,930 Personal Injury: Past Medical Cost; $12,000,000 Personal Injury: Future Medical Cost; $640,000 Personal Injury: Past Lost Earnings Capability; $1,200,000 Personal Injury: Future Lost Earnings Capability; $24,000,000 Personal Injury: Past Pain And Suffering; $70,000,000 Personal Injury: Future Pain And Suffering

Trial Information:

Judge:

Martha J. Cook

Trial Length:

2
 weeks

Trial Deliberations:

3
 hours

Jury Vote:

6-0

Jury Composition:

1 male/ 5 female

Post Trial:

University of South Florida College of Medicine filed an appeal. A prior motion for a new trial was denied.

Editor’s Comment:

This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiff’s counsel and Tampa General Hospital’s counsel. USF’s counsel did not respond to the reporter’s phone calls, and Glazerman’s counsel was not asked to contribute.