$178.4 Million Verdict for Severe Complications from Gastric Bypass

Counsel Financial

On March 9, 2007, 39-year-old George Clay Chandler underwent laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery at Memorial Hospital Jacksonville. Dr. John DePeri performed the surgery. Chandler elected to undergo the surgery that was recommended to him after he failed a physical for his employment with the Clay County Sheriff’s Office.

Following surgery, Chandler suffered severe complications, including cardiac arrest, septic shock and respiratory failure. He suffered a low-flow stroke, where his blood pressure was so low that his brain did not get enough blood, causing him to slip into a coma for two weeks. He suffered a hypoxic brain injury and was left unable to speak, feed, toilet or bathe himself. He remains permanently confined to a wheelchair and will require at least $250,000 for annual medical care.

Furthermore, during his coma, health care personnel were supposed to apply two eye drops to Chandler’s eyes every eight hours for three days. Instead, staff only applied the eye drops on two occasions, leading to permanent damage to both of Chandler’s corneas. He also suffered contractures and bedsores during his stay at Memorial Hospital.

Chandler, his wife and their children filed suit, in relevant part, against DePeri, North Florida Surgeons, P.A. and Memorial Healthcare Group Inc. DePeri and North Florida Surgeons both settled before trial. Plaintiffs’ action against Memorial Healthcare proceeded to trial.

At trial, Plaintiffs contended that Memorial Healthcare was vicariously liable for medical malpractice and treatment delays committed by DePeri, who was inexperienced, and certain hospital staff. Plaintiffs further alleged that Memorial Hospital fraudulently induced Plaintiff to have the procedure performed at its facility, by falsely advertising that the hospital had a team of doctors and nurses committed to bariatrics. Such misrepresentation included a pamphlet and other literature containing a printed accreditation seal that Defendant provided to potential surgery patients. To obtain such accreditation, however, DePeri needed to have performed at least 50 surgeries. Defendant’s President testified that DePeri performed, at most, only 21 bariatric surgeries. Also, instead of completing the required 20 hours of bariatric education courses, DePeri had only taken a single class.

Defendant argued that DePeri was qualified and that it never misrepresented his skills. Defendant further argued that by March 2007, DePeri had been either the primary or at least an attending surgeon in over 70 gastric bypass surgeries. Defendant also pointed to DePeri’s post-graduate training in bariatric surgery and laparoscopy. Finally, in support of its contention that DePeri and all other medical personnel met the applicable standards of care, Defendant noted the absence of any testimony critical of either Plaintiff’s surgery or any post-surgical testing.

The jury found Memorial Hospital 60% liable and DePeri 40% liable for Plaintiffs’ injuries. The jury awarded Plaintiffs $178,368,457 for past and future medical expenses, past and future economic loss, past and future pain and suffering, loss of services, loss of consortium and for punitive damages. The award was increased to $228,749,748 for prejudgment interest, setoffs, attorney fees and costs.
VERDICT: $178,368,457
ACTUAL: $228,749,748 Plus Unknown Settlement
COURT: Duval County Circuit Court, 4th, FL

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