Utah Unanimous Defense Verdict After Intraoperative Burn
December 12, 2022
Jury rejects allegations that anesthesiologist was responsible for warming pad burn
Overland Park, Kansas – December 12, 2022 – Preferred Physicians Medical (PPM), industry-leading provider of professional liability insurance for anesthesia practices, announced that a jury in Utah County, Utah, recently returned a unanimous defense verdict in favor of a PPM insured anesthesiologist and his practice group.
A 59-year-old male underwent a thoracotomy for a lesion on his spine. He was positioned on his left side. A warming pad was placed, and the temperature set by the circulating nurse. After the procedure, the patient complained of pain on his left side and was noted to have a second-degree burn that was assumed to be from the warming pad. The hospital paid the charges for the burn care during the patient’s admission. The patient’s wound healed with minimal scarring. He had no lost wages or any other economic damages associated with the burn.
The patient filed a lawsuit naming the hospital, neurosurgeon (a hospital employee), PPM’s insured anesthesiologist and his practice group. The plaintiff alleged the anesthesiologist placed the warming pad and failed to prevent him from sustaining a burn. During discovery, the circulating nurse testified he placed and set the temperature on the warming pad. The hospital settled prior to trial.
PPM’s insured anesthesiologist testified he did not place the warming pad or set the temperature. He testified that if he had seen anything unusual during positioning of the patient or when the warming pad was placed, he would have discussed any concerns with the operating room personnel.
The plaintiff proceeded to trial against the anesthesiologist and his practice group. Dr. David Lindsay, an anesthesiologist at the VA hospital in Durham, North Carolina, testified on behalf of the plaintiff. Dr. Lindsay testified that the anesthesiologist is responsible for the patient’s body temperature, including the warming pad. He testified further that because the patient’s injury was related to the warming pad then the anesthesiologist breached the standard of care. He also testified that warming pads do not burn patients if they are applied appropriately, barring some device malfunction.
The anesthesiologist retained to defend PPM’s insured testified the anesthesiologist met the standard of care. He testified that he does not place the warming pad or maintain the temperature in his practice. He also testified the temperature setting of 41 degrees Celsius was an appropriate temperature for the warming pad, and there was no reason for the anesthesiologist to question the setting. Additionally, the hospital had protocols in place that stated the standard setting for the warming pad and who was to place it.
In closing argument, the plaintiff asked for compensation is the amount $200,000 asserting the anesthesiologist should be apportioned 75% of the liability. After deliberating for only 22 minutes, the jury returned a unanimous defense verdict in favor of the anesthesiologist and his practice group. David C. Epperson. Esq. and Nourin Abourahma, Esq. of Epperson & Owens, P.C., Salt Lake City, UT represented PPM’s insureds. Shelley Strome, Senior Claims Specialist, managed the case on behalf of PPM.
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