A court in Pasadena, California, has awarded a woman who grew up with an avoidable heart condition due to “baffling” post-natal surgery one million dollars in negligent heart operation compensation.
The woman, who was not named in court, was born in the Huntingdon Hospital in May 1979 with a heart issue. An operation the day following her delivery was intended to fix the septal wall which separated the left and right chambers of the heart; however the Los Angeles County Superior Court heard that during the operation the vena cava artery – the artery which carries de-oxygenised blood to the heart – was connected to the wrong side of the septal wall and, as a consequence, the flow of blood was directed into the heart´s left chamber instead of the right.
As a result of the surgical error, the girl grew up with constant oxygen deprivation which caused hypoxia, physical disabilities and other health problems, and it was not until 2007 that the cause of the problem was identified. The court heard that the claimant underwent surgery shortly before her thirtieth birthday in 2009 to correct the problem, and subsequently sought legal advice about making a claim for negligent heart operation compensation in relation to the initial error.
The defence for the negligent surgeon – Dr Alan Gazzaniga – argued that it was too late to make a claim for negligent heart operation compensation according to the Statute of Limitations; however the claimant´s counsel argued successfully that the woman could not have been expected to known that her heart condition was the result of Dr Gazzaniga´s medical negligence prior to the discovery of the error in 2007 – with the claim subsequently made within the Statute of Limitations after the discovery of the negligent heart operation.
In court, the physician who surgically fixed the heart mistake described Dr. Gazzaniga´s work in court as “baffling” and “incorrect” and along with two other cardiothoracic surgeons, a cardiologist, a paediatric cardiologist and a vocational rehabilitation specialist, testified that the woman´s heart condition and subsequent problems could have been avoided had it not been for the negligence of Dr. Gazzaniga.
After three weeks of litigation, the jury at the Los Angeles County Superior Court in Pasadena returned a verdict in favour of the claimant and awarded her one million dollars in negligent heart operation compensation, having found Dr. Gazzaniga guilty of medical negligence by demonstrating a lack of skill – or the ability to demonstrate that skill – during the first surgical operation.