Dr. Orlito Trias was sued for negligence. The lower court awarded $4 million in damages.
A summary of the case was presented on the Connecticut State Medical Society website.
The case claimed that during a preoperative consultation for the removal of fibroid tumors, Dr. Trias failed to “strongly advise” the plaintiff that her family history of breast cancer greatly increased her risk for developing ovarian cancer. Although clear from the medical records that the risk of ovarian cancer was discussed, the plaintiff claimed that she was not “strongly advised” to undergo removal of her ovaries. The plaintiff subsequently developed ovarian cancer.
As is the norm, Dr. Trias only had $1M in professional liability coverage. He appealed. In August, 2012, the Supreme Court of Connecticut ruled.
- a physician may, in failing to provide a patient with information, incur liability for falling short of the professional standard of care;
- patient alleged a claim of medical negligence, not just a claim of lack of informed consent;
- physician failed to show that trial court’s rulings admitting patient’s testimony regarding the connection between her development of ovarian cancer and her failure to have her ovaries removed, even if improper, were harmful;
- patient was qualified to testify that she would have had her ovaries removed had she been informed of her risk of developing ovarian cancer;
- patient, in establishing causation, could rely on her testimony that she would have had her ovaries removed had she been informed of her risk of developing ovarian cancer;
- trial court did not abuse its discretion in precluding physician from eliciting testimony regarding the probable results of a genetic screening test that was never administered to patient;
- trial court properly permitted patient to make a late amendment to complaint; and
- trial court’s precluding counsel from articulating any basis for their evidentiary objections was not harmful.
The judgment was affirmed.
The Connecticut State Medical Society reported
In May of 2013, the plaintiff’s law firm, Silver, Golub and Teitell, executed on the judgment, and with no notice seized Dr. Trias’ personal and business bank accounts and placed a lien on his real property in an effort to collect the over $4 million owed under the judgment.
It’s not clear whether Trias asked his carrier to settle for policy limits before the case. It is not clear whether Dr. Trias’ professional liability carrier paid any amount above the $1M policy limits. It’s not clear whether the plainitff’s attorneys used the lien as leverage to obtain a settlement above policy limits but lower than the $4M award.
What is clear is Dr. Trias likely put his entire nest egg at risk when he evaluated one patient. Trias acted responsible by purchasing a professional liability policy. It just wasn’t enough. Physicians face this risk each and every day. Doctors should think about implementing a robust asset protection plan well before sensitive body parts are caught in a vise.