A man who burned himself in a cooking accident has been awarded $3 million compensation for unnecessary skin graft surgery by a jury in Philadelphia.
On May 1st 2011, Wismond Brissett (45) was frying fish in his kitchen when the cooking grease caught fire. The flames from the burning grease flared up and burned Wismond – who was not wearing a shirt – on his chest and arms.
Wismond quickly extinguished the fire and was driven to the South Jersey Regional Medical Center by his girlfriend, where he was treated for first and second degree burns on eight percent of his body surface.
Wismond visited his family doctor a few days later, and was referred to Dr. David Watts of the Plastic & Cosmetic Surgery Institute; who diagnosed Wismond as having first, second and third degree burns over fifteen to twenty percent of his body.
Dr. Watts told Wismond that he needed surgery very quickly to give the skin the best chance to heal, and he scheduled Wismond in for outpatient surgery the next day.
When Wismond returned the following day, skin was taken from his thighs and grafted to both forearms and the right side of his chest. However, after the surgery, Wismond was left in a considerable amount of pain and, as there was also significant scarring, Wismond sought the opinions of several other doctors.
The doctors unanimously agreed that Wismond´s wounds would have healed without surgery and left only minor scarring. They found that burns that had been characterized by Dr. Watts as third degree had healed very well where surgery had not been performed – indeed, far better than any burns the plastic surgeon had treated.
Wismond sued Dr. Watts for compensation for unnecessary skin graft surgery; supporting his claim with testimony by a competent surgeon that Wismond had not experienced any third degree burns. His expert witness also stated that Dr. Watts had scheduled surgery too soon after the cooking accident.
Watts denied that he had been negligent and found his own expert witness who said that the plastic surgeon´s treatment of Wismond had met the required standard of care. With no mediated or negotiated settlement obtainable, the claim for compensation for unnecessary skin graft surgery proceeded to court, where it was heard by a jury before Judge Shirley Robins-New.
After four days of testimonies, the jury took just one hour to find in Wismond´s favor, and they awarded him $3 million compensation for unnecessary skin graft surgery.