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Surgical Pad Left Inside Cancer Patient | Plaintiff Awarded 1.25M

In a recent article published by Virginia Lawyers Weekly, a jury in Staunton, Virginia has awarded $1.25 Million after a 47-year-old male suffers from extensive inflammation and infection, causing his colostomy to be irreversible. Brewster S. Rawls of Rawls Law Group and Christopher P. Yakubisin of Tronfeld West & Durrett represented the plaintiff, Waverly Adcock in this five-day trial in the City of Staunton, Virginia (Adcock v Blue Ridge Radiologists, Inc. et. al. case no. CL17-271).

By the time the trial took place before Judge Charles L. Ricketts III and a jury in Staunton, Adcock was facing a terminal prognosis. At trial, medical expenses weren’t introduced.

“We ultimately made the decision because I didn’t want us arguing over something like medical expenses,” Rawls said. “It would only distract from the fact that Mr. Adcock was affected by the pad being left and its going undiscovered.”

About the Case

Having been diagnosed with colon cancer, the 47-year-old male cancer patient, underwent a colon resection on August 31, 2016 at Augusta Regional Medical Center. A week later, he presented to the hospital, where an anastomotic leak was diagnosed. Mr. Adcock underwent emergency surgery on September 7, 2016. A colostomy was done at that time. At the conclusion of the surgery, the counts were reported as correct. It was anticipated that 6 to 12 months later the colostomy would be reversed.

Following the emergency surgery, Mr. Adcock had a difficult course. He remained an in-patient for over 30 days and was in a rehabilitation unit for another month. Finally, he was discharged home in mid-November 2016, but he continued to have problems and his wound did not heal. In early January 2017, Mr. Adcock noticed something protruding from his ostomy site. He went to the UVA emergency room. It turned out that the protruding object was a laparotomy pad from the September 7, 2016 surgery. The pad was removed, and Mr. Adcock improved quickly.

Unfortunately, because of the extended inflammation and infection, his colostomy could not be reversed.

On four occasions following the September 7, 2016 surgery, Mr. Adcock underwent abdominal CT scans. Two were read by one radiologist with the group and two were read by another. Although the radiopaque marker on the lap pad was clearly visible, neither of the defendant radiologists mentioned it in their reports. Plaintiff’s expert opined that what was seen was an abnormal finding that needed to be reported as such. At trial, the doctors and their experts took the position that the area on the CT appeared to be “normal post-surgical changes” (suture line or staples) and therefore did not need to be mentioned in their reports.

Mr. Adcock’s surgical expert had also been his treating doctor at UVA. He testified both as to standard of care for the surgeon and causation issues. Dr. Williams testified that the surgeon had his own duty to review the CT scans and that a surgeon should have readily identified the retained foreign body. He also testified with regard to the issues pertaining to the pad being left in the patient. The surgeon defended his care, asserting reliance on the nursing staff for having reported the counts as correct, as well as the radiologists having interpreted the CTs but not reporting the object.

By the time of trial, Mr. Adcock’s colon cancer had progressed, and he had a terminal diagnosis. This information became known to the jury. Plaintiff opted not to introduce evidence of medical expenses. Hence, the main focus of the case was the plaintiff’s permanent colostomy for the remainder of his now much shortened life.

Over the course of two days, the jury deliberated for close to seven hours before returning a verdict in favor of Mr. Adcock against the radiology defendants and awarded damages of $1,250,000. The jury found in favor of the surgeon and his group.

The radiology defendants moved to set aside the verdict claiming there was no evidence of causation. The Court overruled that motion about a month after trial.


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