Iowa State Jury Awards Widow And Son $ 10,000,000 In Medical Malpractice/Wrongful Death Suit Following Death Of Surgical Patient From Aspiration During Anesthesia
In October of 2014, Richard J. Pellock was diagnosed with non-metastatic bladder cancer by Dr. Alex Horchak. On Jan. 5, 2015, Richard was admitted to UnityPoint Health Finley Hospital in Dubuque, Iowa, to undergo a robotic-assisted laparascopic radical cystoprostatectomy with ileal loop urinary diversion by Dr. Horchak. The surgery was successful in eradicating the bladder cancer, but Richard subsequently developed an ileus and abdominal distention.
On Jan. 11, 2015, Dr. Horchak ordered a general surgerical evaluation of Richard by Dr. Jacob Wagner. Following evaluation, Dr. Wagner recommended that Richard undergo an exploratory laparatomy to rule out injury to the bowel or an anastamotic leak. Richard was admitted to surgery, with James Weiters, CRNA, performing the anesthesia. During surgery, Richard sustained an aspiration, and subsequently developed aspiration pneumonia, and hypoxic/hypercarbic respiratory failure. Richard, 80, died on Jan. 11, 2015.
On Nov. 10, 2015, Joann Pellock, Richard's wife, and Mitchell Pellock, Richard's son, filed suit in the Iowa District Court, in and for Dubuque County, Iowa, against James Wieters, CRNA, Mississippi Valley Anesthesiology, P.C., Jacob Wagner, M.D., Dubuque Surgery, P.C., Alex Horchak, M.D., and Unity Point Health Finley Hospital. The plaintiffs alleged negligence in that, prior to Richard being intubated, James Weiters, CRNA, Dr. Wagner, and Dr. Horchak knew or should have known that Richard presented with nausea, a bloated and distended abdomen, distended bowl loops with air fluid levels, stool coming out of his Jackson-Pratt drain, and a full stomach; therefore, every precaution should have been taken to avoid aspiration at induction. The plaintiffs asserted that nevertheless, the defendants did not pass a nasogastric tube into Richard prior to the induction of general anesthesia.
The plaintiffs further alleged, inter alia, that James Weiters, CRNA did not perform a rapid sequence induction of general anesthesia, he did not apply cricoid pressure during the induction of anesthesia, and he did not suction the tracheal bronchia tree down the endotracheal tube with soft suction catheter after the emesis and aspiration occurred.
The plaintiffs also contended that James Weiters, CRNA, and Dr. Wager were negligent in failing to order diagnostic and therapeutic fiberoptic bronchoscopy of the tracheal bronchial tree after emesis and aspiration, and failing to order chest X-rays of Richard. The plaintiffs alleged vicarious liability claims against Mississippi Valley Anesthesiology, P.C., Dubuque Surgery, P.C., and Unity Point Health Finley Hospital.
The plaintiffs claimed damages for pre-death physical and mental pain and suffering on the part of Richard, and premature burial expenses. Joann contended that as a result of the defendants' negligence, she incurred damages for past, present, and future loss of spousal consortium, and lost the past, present, and future consortium, aid, affection, support, and services of Richard. Mitchell asserted damages for past, present, and future loss of parental consortium, and of the aid, affection, support, and services of Richard.
On Nov. 23, 2015, James Wieters, CRNA and Mississippi Valley Anesthesiology, P.C. filed an answer, denying that any negligence occurred. On Dec. 10, 2015, Jacob Wagner, M.D. and Dubuque Surgery, P.C. filed an answer denying that any negligence occurred. On Dec. 21, 2015, Alex Horchak, M.D. and Unity Point Health Finley Hospital filed an answer denying that any negligence occurred, and asserting, inter alia, that any damages sustained were the result of pre-existing conditions and/or actions or failures to act on the part of others.
On May 16, 2017, the plaintiffs filed an amended complaint adding allegations, inter alia, that James Wieters, CRNA waited too long for the 1mg/kg of administered succinylcholine to take effect, failed to seek an immediate pulmonary consult, failed to do a proper preoperative anesthesia evaluation of Richard, and failed to know the interval medical history of Richard.
On Sept. 20, 2017, with Judge Thomas A. Bitter presiding, a jury rendered a verdict in favor of the plaintiffs against Mississippi Valley Anesthesiology, finding Wieters negligent, in the amount of $ 10,000,000. Plaintiffs' pre-suit demand was $325,000.
Plaintiffs were represented by Dominic F. Pechota and Nicholas C. Rowley of Trial Lawyers for Justice.
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