Cataract Surgery Gone Bad Results in Loss of Eye, $684,000 Verdict for Patient – Rieker v. Kristal

A Chicago jury examined the question of what duty of care does a surgeon owe his patients following a surgery in the medical malpractice lawsuit of Marvin Rieker v. Libby Kristal, M.D., 08 L 90 (LaSalle County). For example, is the surgeon required to keep an eye on his patient’s care only when he/she is in the hospital, or is he required to be the follow up person for any questions related to the surgery even after the patient has gone home?

The case in question involved a cataract eye surgery that ophthalmologist Dr. Libby Kristal performed on Marvin Rieker. Almost from the start, the 79 year-old Rieker began to experience problems. Following the cataract surgery, Rieker began to complain of pain and redness in his eye. Dr. Kristal attributed Rieker’s complaints to the regular side effects of cataract surgery and told Rieker that his eye would take some time to heal.

However, the following day Rieker was still complaining of severe pain and redness that had not subsided. And while Dr. Kristal was out of town, she referred Rieker to an optometrist for evaluation. That optometrist recommended that Rieker be referred to a retinal surgeon within a few days and reported his findings to Dr. Kristal. Dr. Kristal authorized an increase in Rieker’s medications and assured Rieker that she would call him the next morning to follow up.

However, Dr. Kristal did not actually call Rieker until mid-afternoon and did not even see him until several hours after that. By then it was too late for Rieker; he had permanently lost his vision in the operated eye. In addition, the extent of damage required that he later have his entire eye removed and replaced with a prosthetic eye. Rieker filed a medical malpractice focusing on Dr. Kristal’s alleged surgical error.

The LaSalle County medical malpractice lawsuit was brought by Illinois attorney Anthony Raccuglia and included claims that Dr. Kristal had effectively abandoned Rieker during the critical postoperative period. However, in order to prove a medical malpractice claim, the plaintiff not only needs to show negligence, but also prove that the alleged negligence caused the relevant injury. Therefore, Rieker’s complaint also included claims that his vision loss could have been avoided if Dr. Kristal had admitted Rieker to a hospital in a timely manner.

The medical malpractice trial produced various components of Rieker’s medical case, including the fact that his postoperative redness and irritation was caused by a severe bacterial infection. The plaintiff contended that Dr. Kristal had misdiagnosed Rieker’s symptoms as the regular reaction to cataract surgery, an error that essentially resulted in his not being admitted to a hospital and not receiving the necessary care to treat his bacterial infection.

Dr. Kristal and her attorneys contended that she had acted within the standard of care and had fulfilled her duties to the plaintiff. Not only had she referred Rieker to another eye doctor when she was unable to see him, but did follow up with Rieker and made a referral to the hospital in a timely manner. However, the Illinois jury evidently did not agree with Dr. Kristal and entered a verdict of $684,100 in favor of the plaintiff.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling Illinois medical malpractice cases for individuals and families for more than 35 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and surrounding areas, including Antioch, Bensenville, Blue Island, Stickney, Rolling Meadows, and Romeoville.

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