TRLF Wins $1 Million for Victim of Medical Malpractice

The Reardon Law Firm is pleased to announce that it has obtained a settlement of $1 million for the family of a woman who died due to medical malpractice. During a hysterectomy in July of 2006, the woman's bowels were punctured. She developed sepsis and died shortly thereafter. Read about the case as written by Thomas B. Scheffey of the Connecticut Law Tribune:

Ob-Gyn Group Settles For $1M Following Death

Young surgeon and veteran missed inch-long bowel cut in patient

By THOMAS B. SCHEFFEY

Estate of Barbara M. Beaudoin et al. v. Norwich Ob-Gyn Group, et al.: The family of a Waterford homemaker collected $1 million in a settlement after the woman died following a series of operations.

Barbara Beaudoin, 60, was diagnosed with cysts on one of her ovaries in June 2006, and had surgery to remove the growths the following July 5. Dr. Maria Olivares performed the surgery on behalf of Norwich Obstetrics and Gynecology group.

Later that day, Beaudoin's blood pressure was so low that the nurses at Thomas Backus Hospital in New London suspected internal bleeding. Dr. Olivares returned at 2 a.m. the next morning and scheduled a 6 a.m. exploratory surgery. She was assisted by Dr. Harold Bodin, a veteran of the Norwich group, in the second of three operations that preceded Beaudoin's death July 10.

New London attorney Robert I. Reardon represents the estate of Barbara Beaudoin and her widower. In an interview, he said Dr. Olivares was not a board certified surgeon - meaning she had not undergone a rigorous testing and peer evaluation process that leads to a special certification. Reardon said the Beaudoins also were not told before the surgery that the doctor had been retained through "a temp agency" and was living in a Mystic motel at the time.

"She was licensed [to practice medicine] in New York and Connecticut," said Reardon, and was helping out at a time when the Norwich Ob-Gyn Group was short-handed.

Before this case, Reardon said he was unaware that a medical practice group could hire professional surgeons from a temp agency. "I think a patient has a right to know before the operation that he or she is being operated on by someone from a temp agency," Reardon said.

In the second surgery, Olivares and Bodin found a liter of fresh blood in Beaudoin's abdomen, but were unable to locate any source. They concluded that whatever injury produced the blood had healed in the hours since the surgery, and they closed up the patient.

Beaudoin was returned to her hospital room, but her relatives were concerned about her continued low blood pressure. She also had an elevated count of white blood cells. "All the tell-tale signs were there," said Reardon. The obstetrical and gynecological doctors should have called in an outside surgeon for a consultation before finishing the first exploratory surgery, Reardon said, and not waited three more days to do so.

Eventually, the family called Beaudoin's family doctor, who advised a surgical consultation. Dr. Thomas Bell, a top surgeon at Backus hospital, analyzed the situation, Reardon said. Bell also concluded that internal bleeding was the likely problem. By July 9, Beaudoin's kidneys, lungs and liver were failing. When Bell undertook a second emergency exploratory surgery July 10, Beaudoin's condition was grave, and Bell had to warn the family that the chances of her recovery were slim.

His exploration found that a septic condition from leaking bowel material had spread into Beaudoin's abdomen, causing bacterial infection of major organ systems. Bell was able to locate the cut in the bowel fairly quickly, said Reardon.

"According to the plaintiff's experts, [surgeons] have to 'run the bowel,' which means, taking the bowel out of the abdominal cavity, and you actually run it through your hands and look at all sides of it to find the hole," said Reardon. Doctors Olivares and Bodin acknowledge that they did not do that, Reardon said. The bowel is "very flexible, and it can be lifted out. You put one section back in and take some more out," Reardon said. "When Dr. Bell did that, he fairly easily found the hole. It wasn't a pinhole. It was a laceration an inch in length."

Reardon's experts concluded that the incision was caused by Metzenbaum surgical scissors, which look like long-handled nail scissors. The bowel was cut in the area where the ovaries rested against the colon, Reardon said. Bell repaired the hole, but by that point the damage from the spread of infection was too great. "By then there was sepsis, and that's why she couldn't be saved. Over time, sepsis set in - bacterial leaking into your abdominal cavity - and that's what caused the patient to die" hours after the final surgery, Reardon said.

The Norwich Ob-Gyn group was defended by Thomas W. Boyce of New London's Faulkner & Boyce. Boyce was not available for comment before press time. The medical malpractice insurance policy limits were $1 million for the Norwich Group defendants, and Reardon made a 30-day offer of compromise for that amount. It was accepted in a settlement with all defendants within 20 days, Reardon said.

Wayne G. Tillinghast, of the Norwich office of Brown Jacobson, represented Backus hospital. He noted that while all the named defendants were included in the final settlement, "Backus hospital did not pay anything." As the case record developed, he said, it showed hospital employees acted responsibly, and its nurses quickly noted the patient's low blood pressure as a serious problem.