$7.5 Million Verdict for Death Following a Spleen Removal Surgery; Estate of J.F., deceased v. Dr. George Salti, et al.

In January 2007, J.F. underwent a splenectomy, which is the removal of the spleen, at the University of Illinois Medical Center at Chicago. J.F. had a condition known as idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), which is a blood disorder managed by steroid use. Reportedly more than two-thirds of the ITP patients who undergo a splenectomy achieve satisfactory remission to the blood disorder.

In this case, the attending surgeon opted to use the daVinci Robotic Surgical System, a minimally invasive surgical procedure, rather than a standard method of removing a spleen. Dr. Galvani, one of the co-surgeons, was assisted by a surgical fellow and a surgical resident. During the surgery, there was an incidental finding of severe liver cirrhosis, a disease of the liver.

Following the surgery, 49-year-old J.F. began showing signs of infection. The family alleged in their lawsuit that the surgeons punctured the duodenum during the surgical procedure. Six days later, Dr. Salti performed an exploratory laparotomy and discovered 1.5 liters of infectious pus inside the abdomen of J.F. But there was no detection of the hole.

At the jury trial, it was reported that Dr. Salti testified that he ran tests to explore the location of the perforation, but found none.

The family’s attorneys contended that Dr. Salti chose not to completely evaluate the duodenum where the perforations were located. However, on January 19, 2007, two weeks after the original surgery, Dr. Galvani located and repaired the perforations. But by then J.F. had suffered sepsis and multi-organ failure and died at the hospital on February 8, 2007. Mr. F. is survived by his wife and a minor child.

The family brought a lawsuit alleging that the surgeons were negligent in the after surgery care and treatment. The lawsuit included the legal theory of res ipsa loquitur, a legal doctrine that means, “the thing speaks for itself.” This doctrine is used to create the inference that negligence caused the injury, but there is no proof of direct causation.

The defendants argued that the perforations occurred spontaneously, but after the January 11th surgery as a result of the patient’s liver disease and not by any negligence. In addition, they argued that J.F. was immuno-compromised because he had been taking steroids as a result of his ITP.

Before the jury reached its verdict, the attorneys for the J.F. family and the defendant surgeons reached a high-low agreement and dismissed three of the physicians without prejudice. The high-low agreement was $250,000 as its low and $6 million as its high.

The jury’s verdict of $7,522,032 against all of the defendants was made up of the following damages:

• $1,022,033 for past medical expenses;
• $500,000 for pain and suffering;
• $1,500,000 for loss of normal life;
• $4,500,000 for loss of society.

A result of the high-low agreement, the family of J.F. will receive the high of $6 million.

The Estate of J.F. was represented by attorneys Edward W. McNabola and Theodore C. Jennings.

Estate of J.F., deceased v. Dr. George Salti, et al.
Kreisman Law Offices has been handling medical negligence cases, nursing home abuse cases and protecting individuals and families for more than 36 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and surrounding areas, including Oak Lawn, Blue Island, Evergreen Park, Villa Park, Schaumburg, Elgin, Hoffman Estates and Niles, Illinois.

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