On Monday, after just three hours of deliberation, a jury awarded Don McLaren $776,000 in damages for pain caused to his wife by a surgeon. The McLaren’s filed a lawsuit against Wesley Sufficool of Rapid City for medical malpractice after a second surgery revealed that surgical staples on her right and left hepatic duct were implemented rather than on her cystic duct.
The incorrect surgery left Karla McLaren in constant pain, leading to the development of end stage liver disease. Karla also developed Lou Gehrig’s disease.
In most cases, medical malpractice lawsuits are difficult to prove because the plaintiff must prove that a reasonable diagnosis was not made or reasonable care was not taken. In this case, however, the positioning of the staples on the hepatic ducts was clear proof that the surgery was performed incorrectly.
It was also proven that Karla suffered because of the incorrect procedure, which caused her chronic pain and end stage liver disease. Unfortunately, the autopsy could not differentiate the cause of death between Lou Gehrig’s disease and the liver diseases.
Karla McLaren spent the last months of her life in a nursing home after being diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, but her health started to deteriorate several months after Sufficool removed her gallbladder in December 2010.
Karla was severely jaundiced from lack of liver function and in tremendous pain when she was hospitalized in May 2011. At that time, doctors discovered the surgical staples were preventing the flow of bile from her liver into her digestive system, according to records.
Regarding the incorrect placement of the surgical staples, Sufficool claimed that he did not put the staples where they were found.
An Omaha surgeon removed the staples in 2011, but it was already too late. The damage had already been done. Karla was told she had end-stage liver disease and was placed on a liver transplant list.
About 18 months later in December 2012, Karla was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease. She moved to the Philip Nursing Home in November due to her poor health.
Karla McLaren had initiated the lawsuit against Sufficool after being diagnosed with end-stage liver disease in 2011. “She said ‘don’t let it slip,’ and I told her I would finish it,” McLaren said. “She was a great lady.”
Her husband said that before she became ill, Karla McLaren was a “happy-go-lucky, bouncy gal.”
Winning the lawsuit for Karla won’t ease his pain, but McLaren feels a sense of satisfaction in prevailing. Following a telephone interview after spending a week in Rapid City for the trial, 72-year-old McLaren said he feels “relief—just relief.”
McLaren sat alone through the trial and returned to an empty house. He had no one to celebrate the victory with after his wife of 15 years died in August at the age of 55.
Do you feel that the jury awarded McLaren a fair amount? No one knows for sure if the staples were placed in the cystic duct, where they should have been, would Karla McLaren still be alive today?
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