A jury returned a record verdict in Cook County Circuit Court in October for injuries suffered in 2008 by a 26-year-old Chicago woman during a routine surgical procedure while she was a patient at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. The jury awarded the Plaintiff, Veranda Williams, $8.7 million in damages for the injuries she suffered during a diagnostic laparoscopy performed by a gynecology resident at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in April, 2008. The case was tried before Judge Debra Dooling over the course of five days and the jury deliberated three hours before reaching its verdict.
On April 24, 2008, Veranda Williams was admitted to Northwestern Memorial Hospital (“Northwestern”) with complaints of periodic pelvic pain. Ms. Williams was seen by Dr. Seema Venkatachalam, an attending Obstetrician/Gynecologist on staff at Northwestern. An exploratory laparoscopy was scheduled to help determine what might be causing her pain. An exploratory laparoscopy is a minimally invasive gynecologic surgical procedure utilizing a scope through a small incision in the belly button.
The procedure commenced the following day, April 25, 2008. Dr. Irene Moy, who was in the last months of her training, performed the procedure under the supervision of Dr. Venkatachalam. During insertion of the trocar, the instrument used to gain access into the abdomen, the right common iliac artery and vein were lacerated and an emergency surgery to repair the major vascular injury was performed by a team of Northwestern physicians. Ms. Williams lost nearly 8,000cc’s of blood, twice the amount of her normal blood volume and required a second emergent surgery while still a patient in the ICU. She required rehabilitative care at The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago after discharge, lost her job at a local aerospace manufacturer and now suffers from significant abdominal adhesive disease which causes her chronic abdominal pain and puts her at risk for future abdominal issues including bowel obstruction.
The case was originally filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County against Northwestern in 2010 and eventually proceeded to trial in October, 2015 before Judge Elmer Tolmaire III. After a week of trial, however, a mistrial was declared after the jury informed the judge they could not reach a unanimous verdict. Following that trial it was determined by talking to several members of the jury that the jury was split 11-1 in Plaintiff’s favor.
A second trial ensued on this matter in the Circuit Court of Cook County, which began in October before Judge Debra Dooling. Northwestern defended the case by arguing Ms. Williams simply suffered a known and recognized injury which was not the result of malpractice. On Monday, November 8, 2016, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Plaintiff in the amount of $8,718,848.05. The plaintiff’s attorneys presented expert witness testimony from two world-authorities, Dr. Darren Schneider, Chief of Vascular Surgery at Cornell Medical Center, and Dr. Jon Einarsson, Head of Minimally Invasive Gynecologic Surgery at Harvard. According to the Law Bulletin Publishing Company’s Jury Verdict Reporter, this verdict is the highest ever reported in Illinois for a common iliac vein or artery injury and the third highest medical malpractice verdict reported against Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
The plaintiff was represented by National Trial Lawyers member Brian Hurst and Thomas F. Boleky of BEUTEL HURST BOLEKY LLC in Chicago. Northwestern Memorial Hospital was represented by Charles Redden and Thomas Lang of Cunningham, Meyer and Vedrine, also of Chicago. Hurst said “What this young woman has been put through by Northwestern, as they’ve denied the undeniable for over eight years, should shock the conscience of anyone who lives in Chicago or considers Northwestern Memorial Hospital for their medical care. Veranda Williams went in for a routine laparoscopy to find out why she was experiencing periodic pain and ended up nearly dying as a result of a major vascular injury. She has fought and persevered and is putting her life back together, but she will suffer the effects of those injuries for the rest of her life.”