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Doctor not liable for colon complications, jury finds

A St. Louis County jury has found that a medical facility is not responsible for damages in the case of a man who suffered complications from a sigmoid colon resection.

“It is a known complication of the procedure which can happen even if there is no negligence on the part of the surgeon,” said Ryan Gavin of Kamykowski, Gavin & Smith which defended Suburban Surgical Associates, Inc. and Dr. Eric Lederman. “Our experts testified that this was just something unfortunate despite our doctor doing everything correct.”

The defendants were sued by William Hartel who had a 2009 laparoscopic surgery to treat his diverticulitis and alleged that his physician failed to properly suture his anastomosis – the surgical connection made in his colon – as well as that too much colon had been removed and the area had received inadequate blood supply.

According to the petition, the problems required further surgeries due to associated colon leakage and created substantial lost wages for the patient who Gavin said had been a dentist but later left his practice.

The plaintiff also alleged difficulties with urinary and bladder incontinence, Gavin said. However, he said that the plaintiff’s actions seemed to show someone leading an active lifestyle.

“At the same time, he joins the military and serves in Iraq, serves in Afghanistan,” he said. “We found pictures of him online on vacation in Antarctica. He had written a letter to his primary care doctor to get into the military asking her to report to the military that everything was fine, that he was okay with no limitations.”

He said that both sides agreed on the area where Lederman had cut off blood supply for the surgery, which was the normal procedure for the surgery, however there was disagreement on whether that location was the right place to do so. The plaintiff’s experts said that decreased blood flow to remaining parts of the colon was damaging while defense experts contended the site for the interruption was proper and met the standard of care. The defense also said that the surgeon removed the correct amount of colon.

“Our testimony was that Dr. Lederman made all the right choices in treating this patient,” Gavin said. “[The plaintiff] was an appropriate candidate for surgery. His technique was appropriate. It was just unfortunate that he ended up with a leak the way he did.”

There was also some disagreement over the information given before surgery. Gavin said that Lederman contended he had fully informed the plaintiff of possible risks while the plaintiff described only a brief pre-op appointment in which the doctor had spent a considerable amount of time looking up his own picture in a magazine spread and told his patient that risks were negligible and not worth mentioning. The defendant denied this occurred.

“Part of our argument was that if that was the meeting that you had with this doctor, why would you sign up for surgery with him?” Gavin said.

Stephen Ringkamp of the Hullverson Law Firm, which represented the plaintiff, declined to comment.

Defense verdict

Medical malpractice

Venue: St. Louis County Circuit Court

Case Number/Date: 14SL-CC03747/April 29, 2016

Judge: Colleen Dolan

Plaintiff’s Experts: Fred Boehmke, Williamsville, New York, (colon and rectal surgery); David Levine, Port Washington, New York, (general surgery)

Defendant’s Expert: Thomas Read, Burlington, Massachusetts, (general surgery)

Insurer: MPM-PPIA

Caption: William J. Hartel v. Suburban Surgical Associates, Inc., Eric D. Lederman, M.D.

Plaintiff’s Attorney: Stephen Ringkamp, Hullverson Law Firm, St. Louis

Defendant’s Attorneys: Ryan Gavin and Michael Schroeder of Kamykowski, Gavin & Smith, St. Louis

Order Reprints

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