We are pleased to have settled our client’s federal lawsuit relating to postoperative infections for $225,000.
Our client underwent surgery to remove his gallbladder after it was determined he was suffering from chronic inflammation. The procedure went without complication, but he remained admitted at the McGuire VA for postoperative evaluation and care. During this admission, he was noted to have consistently elevated white blood cells (WBC) – the normal range is between 4.5-11, and anything higher can be indicative of an underlying infection.
On the day of discharge, his WBC was 14.6, yet, despite such concerning findings, our client was discharged home without any antibiotics to address the probable infection. Upon returning home, he continued to suffer from abdominal pain and weakness, prompting him to return to McGuire VA a few days later. When he did, his abdomen was distended, his WBCs were still elevated, and a CT scan revealed concerns for liver abscesses. Our client was subsequently readmitted and started on IV antibiotics to address his elevated WBC; however, no further treatment, evaluation, or imaging was ever provided to address the concern for liver abscesses. Instead, he was discharged home two-days later with additional antibiotics and instructions to follow up with general surgery. At this follow up appointment though, there again was no mention of the liver abscesses and our client was not evaluated nor provided any additional treatment or instruction. Therefore, believing all was okay, our client returned home and attempted to resume his normal life.
Unfortunately, a month and a half later, our client was admitted to the ICU at a local private hospital with severe sepsis and – surprise, surprise – liver abscesses. During this admission, he had a drain placed to evacuate the abscesses and was treated with additional antibiotics. He seemed to have made a decent recovery, however, a year later, he was readmitted again for further treatment, and he continues to suffer from underlying complications.
In essence, while the initial surgery was performed appropriately, the quality of the postoperative care was egregious and caused our client significant injury. Fortunately, our client survived, but it could very well have killed him.
When we took this case, we believed this would be one that the VA would likely want to settle at the administrative level. We were wrong though. In fact, the VA denied the claim in relatively short fashion, leaving us a bit perplexed, as these claims usually don’t move that fast. Did we miss something? Or does the VA know something we don’t? Nonetheless, we decided to have our clients care reviewed by an independent surgeon, who provided us with a favorable review, which allowed us to file suit in the Eastern District of Virginia.
Thankfully, the Assistant U.S. Attorney defending the lawsuit was very reasonable and we were able to settle the lawsuit early on for $225,000. While this is one that should have undoubtedly been resolved administratively, we are pleased with the outcome and glad to have been able to provide this veteran with some closure so that he can move on.