Law360, Los Angeles (May 9, 2017, 8:39 PM EDT) A
Pennsylvania federal judge on Monday declined to disturb a $625,000 jury award in a suit accusing a doctor of performing an unnecessary surgery to remove a noncancerous mass that turned out to be nonexistent, saying the award was reasonable.The jury determined in March that gynecologist Dr. Tuan A. Le was responsible for an unnecessary surgery performed on Natisha Almeida to remove a noncancerous mass the doctor believed to be
the size of a potato but turned out to be nothing. U.S. District Judge Robert F. Kelly said the noneconomic damages awarded by the jury were “not so grossly excessive as to shock one’s sense of justice,” according to a six page ruling.
“The jury’s verdict in plaintiff’s favor against moving defendants in the amount of $625,000 is reasonable and bears a rational relationship to the evidence presented at trial,” the judge said.
“We conclude that the jury’s award of $625,000 in noneconomic damages fell “within the uncertain limits of fair and reasonable.”
The judge rejected Le’s assertion that Almeida would’ve had permanent scarring anyway due to a separate polyp removal surgery performed by a different doctor, saying expert testimony presented at trial showed that the polyp removal surgery did not reopen the scar from Le’s surgery but instead utilized different entry points.
Judge Kelly also brushed aside Le’s argument that he was not responsible for Almeida being rendered infertile, saying Almeida did not actually allege that she was infertile but rather that she had “fertility issues.”
The judge additionally approved Almeida’s request for approximately $37,000 in delay damages, which are essentially sanctions allowed under state law for failure to settle a matter promptly.
Almeida had previously argued that Pennsylvania court rules allow for such requests because the verdict exceeded 125 percent of Le’s prior settlement offer of $100,000.
Representatives for the parties did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday.
According to the suit, Almeida visited Doylestown Women’s Health Center LLC in 2013 complaining to Le of pelvic pressure and rectal bleeding.
Radiologist Dr. Paul Adelizzi analyzed the patient’s transvaginal ultrasound and said there was a mass present near Almeida’s left ovary and recommended a pelvic CT scan with “rectal contrast”
in order to provide further evaluation, but Le allegedly ordered a CT scan without rectal contrast, according to the suit.
An analysis of that CT scan done by another radiologist, Dr. Mark Silidker, said there was a “somewhat poorly defined solid mass” and recommended a pelvic MRI with contrast, but again, Le allegedly failed to order such a test and instead recommended an exploratory surgery of Almeida’s abdomen, which was performed on May 10, 2013, and failed to reveal any mass.
“On May 13, 2013, defendant Le called plaintiff on the telephone. He explained that the MRI revealed that what he thought was a tumor was instead ‘a shadow’ and that there was nothing to be worried about,” the complaint states. “Plaintiff then said to defendant Le ‘I had surgery for’ she paused, to which defendant Le responded, filling in the pause, ‘Nothing.'”
The jury found Le liable for medical negligence but cleared Adelizzi and Silidker of negligently analyzing Almeida’s medical images.
In April, Le told Judge Kelly that the jury award was excessive and requested a new trial on damages.
“The jury’s verdict is excessive because it unreasonably attributes all scarring to Dr. Le’s surgery, when she would have the scarring regardless due to Dr. Bowers’ subsequent performance of her
2016 surgery to remove a preexisting polyp,” Le said last month.
Almeida is represented by Anthony J. Baratta and Andrew E. Dipiero Jr. of Baratta Russell & Baratta.
Le is represented by George H. Knoell III of Kane Pugh Knoell & Driscoll.
The case is Natisha Almeida et. al. v. Tuan A. Le et. al., case number 2:14cv06674,
in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
reporting by Abraham Moussako. Editing by Catherine Sum.