A Franklin County, Ohio jury has awarded $1.8 million to the family of a 30-year-old man who died after surgery in 2010.
According to the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch, the jurors found that Dr. Adam M. Zochowski of Columbus and his medical group, Central Ohio Surgical Associates Inc., were negligent in assessing the man, Carl Whitmer, and clearing him for surgery.
Stephen Chappelear, a Columbus lawyer who tracks jury awards, called the amount significant.
“In Franklin County, there are very few jury verdicts in excess of $1 million,” he said.
Zochowski and the medical group can appeal the verdict, which was announced late on Tuesday after a two-week trial in the courtroom of Common Pleas Judge Tim Horton. Their attorneys did not return phone messages seeking comment yesterday.
Whitmer had facial surgery at Mount Carmel West hospital on May 22, 2010, two weeks after he was injured in a traffic crash, according to the lawsuit filed by his estate. He was complaining about severe headaches but was cleared for surgery by Zochowski, the trauma-services physician, witnesses testified. Whitmer didn’t wake up from the surgery and died seven days later.
Evidence showed that a subdural hematoma Whitmer suffered during the crash had expanded, and the surgery increased pressure in his skull, leading to brain death, said David Shroyer, attorney for the estate.
“A CT scan before the surgery would have shown the expanding subdural, and a surgical burr hole would have relieved all the pressure, and Carl would have lived,” Shroyer said.
Whitmer’s nurses and the doctor who performed the surgery also were defendants in the lawsuit but were not found liable by the jury.
Shroyer said the nurses kept a record of Whitmer’s headache complaints, but doctors didn’t check the record. He said poor communication among the members of the medical team, for which Zochowski essentially served as the quarterback, led to the death.
“It was don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t know,” Shroyer said.
Whitmer had attended Briggs High School and worked for 12 years in warehousing at Jenny Corp. He was single with no children. The jury awarded his estate $900,000 for loss of companionship and $900,000 for mental anguish. The survivors include his parents — Carl and Cathy Whitmer — and two sisters.
Ohio’s tort-reform laws won’t affect the award because the caps on damages do not apply to wrongful-death cases, Shroyer said.
- John Futty, Columbus Dispatch