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Plastic surgery patient dies from aspiration pneumonia – $1,950,000 Verdict

Virginia Lawyers Weekly//September 20, 2010

Plastic surgery patient dies from aspiration pneumonia – $1,950,000 Verdict

Virginia Lawyers Weekly//September 20, 2010

The case involved the death of a 36-year-old mother of four after elective, cosmetic plastic surgery, which comprised breast augmentation and mastopexy, abdominoplasty and liposuction, with five hours of general anesthesia in an outpatient setting. Plaintiff contended that the defendants failed to adequately monitor the patient post-operatively and discharged her prematurely despite reported breathing difficulties.

In addition, plaintiff alleged that defendants failed to investigate or respond meaningfully to a telephone report from the woman’s family the first day after surgery that the patient was having difficulty moving, was in considerable pain, had had a fever, and was dizzy.

The plaintiff’s experts contended that her immediate post-operative condition was the result of aspiration in the perioperative phase, and that timely recognition and intervention would have prevented her death.

The patient died approximately 33 hours following discharge from aspiration pneumonia. The defense challenged the details of the post-operative telephone call and contended that the only aspiration occurred in the final three hours of the patient’s life, and could not have been predicted or prevented.

The jury awarded the plaintiff the full demand, which was the cap. The verdict was preceded by a note from the jury asking if they could award the plaintiff more than $1,950,000.


Type of action: Medical malpractice
Injuries alleged: Death
Name of case: Joseph Lopez, Administrator of the Estate of Maritess Lopez v. Matthew A. Galumbeck MD and Plastic Surgery of Tidewater PC (dba Galumbeck Plastic Surgery)
Court: Virginia Beach Circuit Court
Case no.: CL08-6458
Tried before: Jury
Name of judge: Edward W. Hanson Jr.
Special damages: Death
Verdict or Settlement: Verdict
Amount: $1,950,000
Date: Aug. 26, 2010
Demand: $1,200,000
Highest offer: None
Experts: Jerry Waisman MD, New York; Michael J. Breiner MD, Roanoke; Kevin R. Cooper MD, Richmond; Karen Hall RN, Roanoke
Insurance carrier: The Doctors’ Company
Plaintiff’s attorney: Kenneth B. Wills, Norfolk

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