Upstate Man Awarded Nearly $1 Million in New York Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Following Surgical Error
Perhaps the most satisfying part of being a New York medical malpractice lawyer is the gratification of seeing justice served when a patient has been grievously harmed by a careless doctor.
Trust lies at the root of the doctor-patient relationship, and redress must be had when that trust is violated.
Surgery is perhaps the time when that trust is most evident. Patients are never more vulnerable than in surgery, when they often are put under and rely entirely on the expertise of their medical providers (see our previous post on surgical vulnerability here). The filing of a suit following a surgical error is not just for the harmed plaintiff but also for future patients in the hope that more care will be taken to prevent future accidents.
The following case is an excellent example of this for a common surgical procedure.
The Press Republican reported this week that a resident of Brushton, New York, in upstate Franklin County, received a jury award of $919,276.67 after a week-long medical malpractice trial. 74 year old George Guyette sued Plattsburg based Dr. Leo Grafstein and his practice, the Urology Associates of Northeastern New York, for a prostatectomy performed in January 2007. The lawsuit focused on Dr. Grafstein’s failure to check for a possible rectal injury during the surgery to remove part of Mr. Guyette’s prostate gland. Mr. Guyette’s law firm stated in a press release that the jury found that Dr. Grafstein performed surgery carefully and properly, but failed at the end to check for a possible rectal injury.
Dr. Grafstein and a defense expert witness from Albany testified that this check was not necessary in a prostatectomy, but other medical witnesses agreed with the plaintiff that the consequences of not checking could be quite severe on the patient, including a colostomy to provide another way for waste to leave the body. In Mr. Guyette’s case, that is indeed what ended up happening. His bowel contents leaked into his abdomen after the surgery and caused a massive infection. He has had to endure four more surgeries, including a colostomy, because of his rectal injury from the original 2007 operation. All told he spent well more than one hundred days in the hospital as a result of these complications.
Mr. Guyette’s lawyer indicated he is unsure why the case did not settle out of court. Many cases like this one settle before trial, because both parties agree that mistakes were made with justice demanding redress. As the founder of a New York City medical malpractice firm I appreciate that while most cases settle, it remains important for patients to have access to the jury system as in this case. When parties cannot agree on a fair resolution on their own, juries offer the best way for disagreement to be resolved and fair accountability to be had where necessary. Not only does this help the plaintiff but it also improves the medical system for other community members. Prostate cancer is the fourth most common cancer in men in the country, therefore it remains incredibly important for medical professionals who are working in this area, like the doctor in this case, to act appropriately each and every time they perform a prostate operation.
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