Judge Upholds Settlement of Surgical Complications Compensation Claim

A Pennsylvania judge has upheld the $19.5 million settlement of a surgical complications compensation claim made by the widower of a woman who underwent polyp removal surgery and later died from complications.

Mariann Pomroy (57) from Langhorne in Pennsylvania attended the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania on 22 October 2008 to have a polyp removed from her colon. At the time of her surgery, Mariann had a number of health problems including renal disease, and had a previous medical history of multiple abdominal surgeries.

After the operation, Mariann´s surgeon – Dr Ernest Rosato – noted that the surgery had been more complicated than had been anticipated due to extensive adhesions from previous procedures, but gave no indication that the operation had not been successful.

However, while she was recovery from the surgical procedure, Mariann started to experience abdominal pain, had elevated blood potassium and decreased urine output. Her medical records showed that, as her health deteriorated, Mariann was transferred to intensive care and – on 2 November 2008 – underwent emergency surgery for intra-abdominal sepsis and gastrointestinal bleeding.

The second operation revealed an area of separation between Mariann´s right colon and terminal ileum which exposed some of her bowel. Because the bowel had swollen through the edema, Mariann´s abdominal cavity could not be closed until a third operation on 8 December 2008 – after which she remained hospitalized until March 2009, when she was considered sufficiently stable to be transferred to a long-term care facility.

While she was at the long-term care facility, Mariann had to undergo several surgical revisions for the treatment she had received at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. She suffered a stroke, developed acute renal failure and ventilation dependent respiratory failure – all of which caused her severe and permanent disabilities. Mariann passed away on 12 August 2010.

After seeking legal advice, Mariann´s widower – George Pomroy – made a surgical complications compensation claim against Dr Rosato and the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, claiming that Mariann´s death had been caused by medical malpractice and that the defendants had failed to conduct appropriate consultations prior to surgery, failed to properly close the anastomosis and failed to recognized the breach in the bowel which resulted in the second and subsequent surgeries.

The hospital and the executors for Dr Rosato – who had died since performing the procedure – denied the surgical complications compensation claim and the case was heard at the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court in February 2013. After a week-long trial, the jury delivered a verdict in favour of George Pomroy, and awarded him $19.5 million in compensation for the wrongful death of his wife due to surgical complications.

The defendants appealed the verdict, but earlier this week Judge Mary Collins upheld the jury´s decision to award George Pomroy $19.5 million in settlement of his surgical complications compensation claim – stating that Dr Rosato (by way of his executors) had breached his duty of care to Mariann by performing colon surgery instead of a less-risky endoscopic procedure, which would have been more appropriate considering Mariann´s previous medical history.