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$16 million + in total recovery including a $9.53 million verdict.

The surgical complications that three years ago made Laurice Rizk a respirator and dialysis dependent double amputee pursuded a jury to award her and her family $9.53 million in a lawsuit against her doctors and hospital.

The jusry in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court handed up the giant malproactice verdict Friday against Southwest General Health Center in Middleburg Heights and seven physicians who participated in Rizk's triple heart bypass in April 2000. The Rizk family's lawyer, Chuck Kampinski, contended in a two week trial that Laurice Risk's surgeons, Dr. Rais Beg and Dr. Susam Apte, both of Cleveland, installed an incorrect heart valve, then realized the error in the midst of the surgery.

But becuase of the error, Kampinski said, Rizk's heart valve operation was botched. He also said that other serious errors occurred, including an improperly installed tracheal tube, while she was a patient at Southwest.

Also named in the suit were Dr. Linas Vaitkus, Dr. L.C. Rao, Dr. K.V. Gopalakrishna, Dr. Sabino Velloze and Dr. Touraj Taghizadeh, all of Cleveland.

Beg's lawyer, William Meadows, was floored by the jury's verdict and said an appeal was likely. "We belive that the result in this case is simply at odds with the expert testimony and evidence," Meadows said. "There was a signifigant sympathy factor in this case, apparently as a consequense, the jury returned a verdict by returning one third of what was actually demanded. Dr. Beg is a great physician. He did nothing wrong to have caused this outcome."

Meadows and other defence lawyers argued that Rizk's many medical problems going into surgery - severe heart, circulatory and kidney disease - made the operation extremely risky, and Rizk was made well aware of that. She also knew she would die without the surgery, Meadows said.

Defence witnesses, including a renowned heart surgeon from Philidelphia, failed to sway the jury, which rendered its verdict around 5p.m. after a full day of deliberation.

Kampinski said Rizk and her family will use the money to provide round-the-clock care for Rizk. Two of her adult children have moved in with their parents to help. Last week the woman was carried into the courtroom on a stretcher. It took five people to move her to a portable hospital bed so she could testify. Her family said that just a few days before her surgery, she prepared dinner for 20 people.

"I was fine," Rizk testified. "I led a very active life right up to the last minute. I cooked a meal every day, I cleaned my house, went shopping, drove to see my sister in Akron.

"Now, I can't do anything."

Today, she takes her food intravenously, breathes using a respirator and undergoes dialysis three times a week. Her legs were cut off after surgery.

Kampinski said the good thing is that Rizk remains in good spirits. "She's chock full of life, in spite of everything she has gone though."


See original article from Plain Dealer in archives here.




Mar 16, 2003


Medical Malpractice

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