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Fatal Medical Malpractice Results in Record $900K Settlement Using Animation

A state hospital touted its dedication to providing exceptional surgical care for its patients. However, two of their gastroenterologists failed to review a woman’s medical records before performing what was supposed to be a routine endoscopy. The woman had altered anatomy — a third of her stomach had been removed. However, the doctors incorrectly believed she has undergone a different procedure than she had. As a result, her altered stomach looked different than how they expected. As they surveyed the woman’s stomach and attempted to advance the endoscope, it would not move. They forced the apparatus through her bowel, causing it to rupture and create a gastrointestinal perforation.

The procedure was aborted immediately, and a subsequent CT scan verified the tear in her intestine. The hospital’s surgeon was called to locate and repair the injury. However, he neglected to refer to the CT scan before performing the exploratory laparotomy. He investigated the woman’s stomach in an incorrect location and began mobilizing her small intestine. Tragically, he cut a large vein, causing the woman to bleed to death on the operating table.

Years before the incident, the woman had Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery done, a weight-loss procedure where the upper portion of the stomach is resected and connected to the small intestine through one opening. However, the doctors erroneously assumed the woman had a Billroth II gastrojejunostomy reconstructed anatomy, a similar stomach operation that leaves two pathways into the small intestine.

The woman’s husband of 40 years was devastated over the sudden loss of his wife. He contacted Ben Cooper of Cooper Elliott to help him determine if medical malpractice had occurred. Ben filed suit and dug into the medical records. He discovered the woman’s death was preventable had the doctors exercised reasonable care to check her medical history. Using his extensive medical network, Ben retained several experts, including a gastroenterologist and a trauma surgeon, to help communicate the complex issue.

The Defense denied all responsibility for the woman’s death, stating there was no imaging available that clearly verified the anatomy of her resected stomach. As a result, Ben needed to visualize the woman’s physiology and show how it differed from what the doctors assumed. Additionally, he needed to demonstrate why their assumption resulted in the perforation, the failed surgery, and ultimately, the woman’s death.

After two years of litigation, Ben prepared for mediation. He needed to show he was ready to go to trial should the mediation not produce a favorable outcome. Thus, he collaborated with DK Global to illustrate the woman’s anatomy and explain the doctors’ negligence.

The animation began by demonstrating the correct way to perform a video capsule endoscopy. Then, a contrasting illustration of the Plaintiff’s altered anatomy (Roux-en-Y gastric bypass) was shown next to a depiction of what the Defendants assumed her stomach looked like (Billroth II gastrojejunostomy). Doctors inserted the endoscope and video capsule through her stomach, locating an appropriate area to place the camera. As they forced the endoscope through, they perforated her bowel. A CT scan of the perforation was displayed. Finally, the surgeon’s failed procedure was recreated: after incising the Plaintiff’s stomach, the surgeon dissected portions of her small intestine, cut her portal vein, and caused uncontrollable bleeding, resulting in fatal cardiac arrest.

Ben shared the animation with the Defense during their first mediation. Both parties were unable to come to an agreement. However, after the Defense reviewed the exhibit more thoroughly, they agreed to resolve the case for $900,000 one week before trial. The amount was more than double what the hospital had ever paid in a medical malpractice case like this.

Since 2015, Ben Cooper of Cooper Elliott has represented the Columbus, Ohio community, advocating for those involved in civil rights matters, personal injury claims, and medical malpractice. Named a “Rising Star” by Super Lawyers for four consecutive years, Ben has also been listed in the “Top 40 Under 40” by the National Trial Lawyers, securing multiple seven-figure resolutions.

"I personally researched several different companies... We went with DK Global because of how much better I thought the product would be, and I'm pleased to say I think that's exactly the case."
Ben Cooper – Cooper Elliott
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