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Date: 12-16-2002

Case Style: Ralph Penta v. Dr. Barbara Bassil

Case Number: 00-CV-1450G

Judge: Catherine A. White

Court: Superior Court, Suffolk County, Massachusetts

Plaintiff's Attorney: Clyde D. Bergstresser and Russell X. Pollock of Campbell Campbell Edwards & Conroy, Professional Corporation, Boston, Massachusetts

Defendant's Attorney: John Ryan, Boston, Massachusetts

Description: This was a medical malpractice action in which it was alleged that the defendant, Dr. Barbara Bassil, was negligent in performance of a routine urological procedure. Specifically, on November 16, 1998, Dr. Bassil performed a cystoscopy on plaintiff, 79 year-old Ralph Penta, to relieve a urinary stricture. When she was unable to find a urinary passage and open the stricture during the cystoscopy, she attempted a percutaneous procedure to drain the bladder by inserting a trocar into the bladder. When this also proved unsuccessful, defendant performed an open procedure to insert a catheter into the bladder through a supra pubic puncture. Another procedure was performed later the same day to check the patency of the catheter and insert a drain in the retroperitoneal cavity. Starting within an hour of the first surgery and continuing in the days that followed, plaintiff's kidneys shut down, his abdomen became distended and he developed an ileus, among other symptoms of necrotizing fasciitis that went undiagnosed until the fifth day postoperatively. At that time, he was operated on to resect the necrotic tissue which included his rectus sheath, oblique muscles, left testicle and testicular cord. Many more operations were necessary to resect additional necrotic tissue, complete a colostomy and reconstruct the abdominal wall.

Plaintiff alleged that Dr. Bassil punctured Mr. Penta's sigmoid colon during the initial insertion of the trocar, and the colonic contents caused the infection in the peritoneum. Plaintiff argued that Dr. Bassil was negligent in attempting to insert the trocar into a bladder that was not full and by failing to explore beyond the peritoneum when a portion of it was seen torn and bleeding during the second surgery on November 16, 1998. Lastly, it was argued that the defendant was negligent for failing to diagnose the severe abdominal sepsis, peritonitis and necrotizing fasciitis at an earlier stage.

Defendant claimed that she did not puncture the sigmoid colon and the compromise of the colon wall was attributable to a diverticulum that became inflamed and burst on the fourth or fifth post operative day. This position was supported by the records and the findings of the subsequent treating surgeon. Defendant also relied on the fact that several other specialists were involved in Mr. Penta's post operative care and none of them diagnosed the sepsis or recommended an exploratory laparotomy.

The jury received the case at approximately 12:45 p.m. on December 10, 2002. At 4:00 p.m., the jury retired from deliberations for the day. Deliberations continued at 9:15 a.m. on December 11, 2002 and the jury returned a verdict of $7,143,561.30 at about 12:40 p.m. that same day. The verdict was comprised of $378,561.30 in past medical expenses, $5,000,000 in past pain and suffering and $1,765,000 in future pain and suffering. Over two million dollars of interest has accrued to date bringing the judgment to approximately $9,500,000. The only settlement offer was $300,000 communicated approximately two hours before the jury returned its verdict.

Outcome: Plaintiff's verdict for $7 million. Approximately $9,500,000 when interest is added.

Plaintiff's Experts: Unknown

Defendant's Experts: Unknown

Comments: None

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