Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Over Intestinal Perforation Results in Jury Verdict for Surgeon

On June 1, 2009, the defendant surgeon Dr. Aaron Siegel agreed to assist a urologist during a urological surgery on 60-year-old Ivory Lakes at the Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, Ill. She had been a patient of Dr. Berger, the urologist, for about a year, treating for retroperitoneal fibrosis. Retroperitoneal fibrosis is a condition that causes urinary flow problems in both ureters. The surgery involved a procedure to free the ureters and encase the ureters with tissues harvested from the patient; the procedure was designed to prevent recurrence of the urinary flow problem.

Dr. Siegel’s role at the surgery was limited to being an assistant to Dr. Berger. Dr. Siegel never met the patient before she was placed under anesthesia, and Dr. Siegel did not know anything about her medical history or what specific procedure was planned.

During the surgery, Dr. Siegel held retractors, provided visualization for Dr. Berger and suctioned fluids from the operative field. However, one of the ureters tore when Dr. Berger grasped it, and it then it disintegrated when he tried to grasp it above the tear. Dr. Berger than decided to remove the kidney due to the lack of a viable ureter.

As Dr. Berger finished his surgery, Dr. Siegel removed the retractors, ran the small bowel below the ligament of Treitz (a suspensory muscle of the duodenum) and found no defects in the bowel. Dr. Siegel left the operating room before Dr. Berger closed the patient’s abdomen. He had no further role in her care and he did not see Lakes again.

Lakes developed abdominal symptoms and respiratory distress six days later and was returned to the operating room by a different surgeon, Dr. William Watson, who discovered a hole in the duodenum and performed a bowel resection.

Despite several more surgeries to repair the bowel leaks over the next few weeks, Lakes unfortunately died on July 19, 2009, seven weeks after the initial surgery.

Lakes was not employed and was survived by 6 adult children. The family sued Dr. Siegel and his surgical practice maintaining that he was negligent for choosing not to run the bowel above the ligaments of the Treitz and choosing not to detect the duodenal perforation. Dr. Berger and the hospital (on a theory of respondeat superior) reportedly settled withLake’s family for $1,400,000 prior to the beginning of the jury trial that ensued against Dr. Siegel and his practice only.

The defendants argued that Dr. Siegel inspected the bowel exactly as his role as assistant to Dr. Berger required, the presence of a defect six days later did not mean he negligently “missed” the hole, the hole may have resulted from blood supplies compromised days after the procedure and Dr. Siegel was acting as an agent of Dr. Berger.

Before the start of the jury trial, the attorney representing the family of Ivory Lakes, Theodore C. Jennings, made a demand to settle the case for $800,000. The defendants, Dr. Berger and his surgical practice made no offer to settle the case.

At the end of closing arguments and as part of the jury instructions, the jury was given a special interrogatory question which was: “Was Aaron Siegel, M.D., acting as an agent of Dr. Israel Berger during Ivory Lakes’ June 1, 2009, surgery?” The jury’s answer was “No.”

Accordingly, the jury’s verdict was in favor of Dr. Siegel and his surgical practice although the family of Ivory Lakes was able to reach a favorable settlement with Dr. Berger and Advocate Condell Medical Center.

Estate of Ivory Lakes v. Lake County Surgeons, P.C., Dr. Aaron Siegel, No. 10 L 553 (Lake County, Ill.).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling medical negligence cases, hospital negligence cases, birth injury cases and nursing home abuse case for individuals and families who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of the carelessness or negligence of a medical provider for more than 38 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Waukegan, Wheaton, Morton Grove, Highland Park, Highwood, Lake Bluff, Grayslake, Round Lake Beach, Round Lake, Vernon Hills, Western Springs, Elgin, Joliet, Aurora, Mount Prospect and Worth, Ill.

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