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Verdict is $1.8M in gallbladder surgery case

MComplications from gallbladder surgery led to a $1.875 million jury verdict this month for a patient who was left with permanent injuries.

The Fredericksburg jury rejected the patient’s claim against her surgeon Jan. 6, but returned the verdict against the doctor’s practice group where a nurse was accused of failing to act on reports of ominous post-surgical problems.

The doctor, Bradford L. King, removed a gallstone in laparoscopic surgery Sept. 13, 2012.

The patient, Christine Hommel, claimed the doctor mistakenly removed a segment of her bile duct, which drains bile from the liver to the intestines. With bile draining directly into her abdominal cavity, she developed bile peritonitis and became very ill, said her lawyer, Benjamin W. Glass of Fairfax.

Hommel said she experienced two weeks of severe pain and other symptoms after the surgery, but could not get the staff at the doctor’s office to realize that she was having abnormal complications.

Nine days after surgery, when she reported spitting up black bile, a nurse told her to go to an emergency room, Hommel alleged. As with earlier calls, the nurse did not report this event to the doctor, according to the lawsuit.

Hommel went to an urgent care center and eventually was referred to specialists to repair the damage and address the “massive infection” from the buildup of bile. She had three major surgeries in three years following the gallbladder operation.

“She can expect future surgeries, medical monitoring and a lifetime of medication,” Glass said.

Glass said his client turned down a $600,000 offer before trial, but he declined to reveal more details about demands and offers.

The state-imposed recovery limit in the case was $2.05 million, he said.

“The cap forces these cases to get tried because the cap means their exposure is limited,” Glass said.

He claimed he had a solid case.

“I had an A-plus client with a really bad injury and I had grade-A facts,” Glass said.

The defendants were represented by Robert F. Donnelly of Richmond.

“It was one of those good news, bad news things,” Donnelly said of the jury’s split decision. He noted the doctor was cleared of negligence.

“I was certainly gratified the jury exonerated my client with regard to the surgery. I was disappointed they found against the group,” he said.

Glass said the case produced a minimum of pretrial conflict.

“There was not the typical wrangling over every issue in the case,” Glass said.

In an unusual move, Glass posted video depositions of the doctor, the nurse and a defense expert on YouTube before the case went to trial.

He said the online videos were a marketing tool.

“It’s an opportunity to see a lawyer working in real time and in real life. We just look for every opportunity to ethically give information to a consumer about how to choose a lawyer,” Glass said.

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