Michael J. Sacopulos, Esq.

A jury in Jacksonville, Florida entered a $178 million judgment against physicians and an HCA owned hospital for a gastric bypass procedure that went horribly awry.

In 2007 following laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery, the patient, Clay Chandler, suffered respiratory failure and was admitted to critical care. He experienced a perforated bowel which required additional surgery and was in a comatose state for several weeks. He presented at trial with an inability to walk, feed himself, speak intelligently and was blind.

The plaintiffs introduced evidence that the Chandler’s surgeon did not meet the standards of the American Society of Bariatric Surgery Centers of Excellence. This was the designation at the HCA facility where Chandler underwent his initial bypass surgery. The plaintiff’s attorney claimed that Chandler was fraudulently informed as to his surgeons experience in performing bariatric procedures. Apparently, the jury agreed with the plaintiff’s position.

The jury verdict of $178 million was so large as to attract the attention of the Wall Street Journal. Reports indicate that HCA plans to appeal the judgment. Despite the fact that this case has been pending for years, the litigation will continue. The ending to this sad story remains unclear and distant. What is clear is that this judgment will have an impact on other pending medical malpractice litigation in Florida and beyond.