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Medical Malpractice - Verdicts & Settlements

Ischemic Bowel Injury Yields $115,000 Verdict

Soter v. Vandenberg

$115,000 Verdict

Date of Verdict:
Jan. 27, 2003.

Court and Case Number:
C.P. Lehigh, No. 2000-C-3048V.

Lawrence J. Brenner.

Type of Action:
Medical Malpractice.

Ischemic bowel injury.

Plaintiff's Attorney:
Michael J. Kowalski, Hourigan Kluger & Quinn, Kingston.

Defense Attorney:
John R. Hill, The Perry Law Firm, Bethlehem.

Plaintiff's Experts:
Jeffrey S. Freed, M.D.; general surgeon/proctologist, New York; William A. Baldino, M.D., thoracic/vascular surgeon, Dover, N.J.; and Andrew G. Verzilli, Ph.D., economist, Philadelphia.

Defense Experts:
Jeffrey Blinder, M.D., diagnostic radiologist, Allentown; and Melvin L. Moses, M.D., thoracic surgeon, Philadelphia.

A Lehigh County jury returned a verdict of $115,000 in a medical malpractice case involving a physician's alleged failure to order a mesenteric arteriogram despite the patient's demonstration of symptoms that, the plaintiff argued, were consistent with mesenteric ischemia.

On Nov. 17, 1998, Carleene L. Sorer was admitted to Gnaden Huetten Memorial Hospital by defendant Dr. Mark T. Vandenberg for complaints of diffuse abdominal pain, weakness, occasional nausea and the passing of reddish brown liquid stools. On admission, Soter, 72 at the time, noted that she had a poor appetite and had recently lost 30 pounds. She further complained of postprandial pain, which is pain after eating.

Vandenberg performed a right hemicolectomy on Soter - a surgical procedure to remove the right-hand side of the colon. He diagnosed her condition as stricture of hepatic flexure, underlying submucosal fibrosis and vascular proliferation. Vandenberg noted that although the findings were nonspecific, they were consistent with an ischemic etiology. During the course of the procedure, there were no. pulses palpable in the middle colic or ileo colic arteries.

Plaintiff Stanley Z. Soter, executor of Carleene Soter's estate, alleged that while these findings were consistent with mesenteric ischemia, Vandenberg failed to order a mesenteric arteriogram. Consequently, the plaintiff said, Soter made no progress and, on Nov. 30, 1998, was transferred by Medivac helicopter to Lehigh Valley Hospital, where she underwent an arteriogram revealing complete occlusion of the superior mesenteric artery. By that time, the plaintiff asserted, Soter's small bowel was not salvageable, nor was she a candidate for mesenteric revascularization.

Soter died on Dec. 1, 1998. Her cause of death was cardiac arrest, small bowel infarction and mesenteric ischemia.

At trial, the plaintiff alleged that Vandenberg was negligent in his failure to order an arteriogram prior to Soter's bowel infarction, in his maintenance of Soter at a facility that did not have the capability to treat a patient with mesenteric ischemia and in his failure to transfer Soter in a timely fashion to a facility that could treat her disease.

The defense asserted that after Vandenberg performed the right hemicolectomy on Soter, he observed that her colon and small intestine showed good color, giving him the impression that there was good flow and that the small intestine and colon were viable. Therefore, the defense argued, it was reasonable for Vandenberg, under the circumstances, to conclude that there was no occlusion and, thus, no need-to perform an arteriogram or transfer the patient to another facility.

The trial commenced on Jan. 21, and on Jan. 27, after more than five hours of deliberation, the 12-person jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff.

PLEASE NOTE: Every case is fact specific, and these results do not guaranty the same results will be obtained in a different case.