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Patient Awarded $10M After a Botched Gallbladder Surgery

Surgeon perform laparoscopic cholecystectomy in gall stone patient with abdominal pain.

A patient and her husband were awarded $10.1 in a recent medical malpractice case after a surgeon cut the patient’s common bile duct during gallbladder surgery. Amy McGouirk filed a lawsuit against the surgeon and the surgeon’s employer after facing years of medical complications related to the botched procedure. Her husband, Allen McGouirk, received $100,000 on a loss of consortium claim.

What Went Wrong in the Hospital?

In October 2011, Amy McGouirk underwent a laparoscopic procedure to remove her gallbladder. Dr. Tamica White of the Wellstar Medical Group, LLC performed the surgery. A laparoscopic procedure involves making a small incision in the abdomen instead of an open surgery, where the skin and tissues are cut. Patients that undergo laparoscopic surgeries typically heal more quickly and have better outcomes than those who have open surgeries.

However, the laparoscopic procedure did not go well for Amy. During surgery, Dr. White severed Amy’s common bile duct – which connects the gallbladder, pancreas, and liver to the small intestine. Liver cells secrete bile to eliminate waste and break down fats during digestion.

Amy developed acute respiratory failure and was in critical condition the day after the surgery. She was moved to a different hospital to receive care from a surgeon specializing in the liver, bile duct, and pancreas.

The first year after surgery, Amy was in and out of the hospital for 8 of the 12 months for various symptoms related to the botched procedure, including recurrent abdominal pain and infections. She also suffered from ongoing fatigue, nausea, and diarrhea.

Amy underwent two separate corrective surgeries to repair the damage to her common bile duct. An initial corrective procedure in 2018 was aborted after problems arose. A second procedure in 2019 was successful. However, Amy faced fevers and tachycardia following the surgery and needed to be hospitalized. Amy developed an abdominal hernia as a result of the previous surgeries and underwent surgery again in 2020 to repair the hernia.

What Happened in Court?

Amy and her husband, Allen, filed a medical malpractice suit against Dr. White and her practice group – Wellstar Medical Group, LLC. They claimed Dr. White failed to meet the accepted standard of care when performing the surgery and in preoperative treatment. They further alleged that Wellstar Medical was vicariously liable for Dr. White’s conduct.

During the six-day trial, Amy testified about her continuing abdominal pain, depression, and inability to return to work due to the botched gallbladder surgery. She testified that the first year of recovery and hospitalizations harmed her relationship with her five-year-old son. Her husband, Allen, testified about the burden of caring for Amy and the deterioration of their relationship following the surgery.

A specialist in hepatobiliary surgery testified on behalf of the McGouirks and said that Dr. White had failed to review Amy’s ultrasound and CT scan before performing the procedure. The expert testified that if she had, she would have discovered that Amy had an enlarged liver and adjusted the procedure accordingly.

He also suggested that the enlarged liver may have been the cause of Amy’s abdominal pain. However, Dr. White never investigated this possibility and focused only on the gallbladder. The expert also testified that Dr. White mistook the cystic duct for the common bile duct. This lapse of judgment led her to triple-clip and make a traverse cut in the common bile duct, causing the injury. The expert said that imaging would have clarified the placement of the ducts and likely would have prevented the injury.

According to the expert, there were other ways Dr. White could have performed the surgery. Possible alternatives included a “top-down” gallbladder dissection, an open procedure, or aborting the operation as undoable.

The defense also called an expert, another general surgeon. This expert said that Dr. White met the standard of care and that removing the gallbladder was appropriate. The expert testified that the enlarged liver was not a contraindication and that common bile duct injuries are an accepted risk of gallbladder surgery.

Ultimately, the jury returned a $10.1 million verdict for the McGouirks. The award included $100,000 for Allen’s loss of consortium claim.

How Do You Prove Liability in a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?

Healthcare providers such as physicians, surgeons, and nurses must meet a satisfactory standard of care when treating patients. When medical professionals fail to meet this standard and cause patients harm, they could be liable for patients’ injuries. A plaintiff who alleges medical malpractice generally must prove that:

  • The healthcare provider owed the plaintiff a duty of care,
  • The provider breached that duty,
  • The breach resulted in an injury, and
  • The patient incurred losses and harm due to the injury

A medical malpractice attorney will gather crucial evidence to prove liability. Some of the evidence a lawyer might use to build a strong case includes:

  • Testimony from specialized medical experts
  • Medical records
  • Diagnostic test results
  • Witness statements
  • Hospital records

What Compensation Can I Secure Through a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit in Washington, D.C.?

Medical malpractice settlements usually cover past, present, and future expenses associated with the injury. Plaintiffs might be compensated for the following losses:

  • Medical bills, including hospital stays, diagnostic tests, doctor’s appointments, and medications
  • Rehabilitation costs
  • Modifications to the home to accommodate impairments or disabilities
  • Lost income if you cannot work due to your injuries
  • Loss of future earning capacity if you cannot return to work
  • Physical pain and suffering
  • Emotional anguish

How Long Do I Have to File a Medical Malpractice Case in Washington, D.C.?

In Washington, D.C., the statute of limitations sets a deadline for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit. You typically have three years from the date of the procedure that injured you to file suit. However, there are several exceptions.

If you miss the deadline, the court will likely dismiss your case – and you will lose your right to seek compensation in civil court. You should speak to a medical malpractice lawyer immediately to avoid missing important deadlines.

Contact a Washington, D.C. Medical Malpractice Lawyer

It can be devastating when a medical procedure goes wrong due to a provider’s negligence. The Law Offices of Dr. Michael M. Wilson, M.D., J.D. & Associates offers compassionate, effective legal representation to victims of medical malpractice. Dr. Wilson is uniquely qualified to investigate and evaluate medical malpractice cases in Washington, D.C. His experience includes more than 30 years with medical malpractice claims as an attorney – but he is also a physician with a medical degree from Georgetown University. With this combination, Dr. Wilson has secured over $100 million in compensation for injured patients and their families. To learn more about how we can help, contact us today for a free consultation.

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