Seven-figure recovery for the husband of a 66-year-old woman who died two days after a liposuction procedure done at a Monroeville, PA, hospital. The instrument used during the liposuction had apparently gone too deep and caused internal bleeding, which eventually led to the woman's death a few days later.
Even the most simple surgeries carry the risk of injury if the doctor is not careful. A liposuction surgery involves the insert of a long rod called a cannula into the fat layer of the belly, which is located right under the skin. The cannula uses suction to extract fat from the area. During a typical liposuction, the cannula is inserted in several different locations and fat removed, all for the purpose of re-shaping or contouring the abdomen. It is a cardinal rule in a liposuction procedure that the cannula should not penetrate below the fat layer into the muscle layer or beyond into the peritoneal cavity where the stomach and intestine are located. In this case, unfortunately, that is exactly what happened. It was discovered at autopsy that there were multiple penetrations through the muscle layer and even some nicks and cuts on the stomach and intestines. Apparently, the doctor had simply gone too deep and at too sharp of an angle when he was manipulating the cannula.
The surgeon had no explanation for how the cannula got so deep, but he agreed that it should never get to the muscle layer or beyond as happened in this case. In a case such as this, the legal principle of res ipsa loquitur would apply. The words "res ipsa loquitur" are a Latin phrase, which means "The thing speaks for itself." In a legal context, it means that if you can show that something usually would not happen unless someone was careless, you can win the case even though you cannot explain exactly how it happened. Thus, in this case, although we could not prove exactly how or why the cannula got so deep, we could win the case just by establishing that a cannula would usually never go into the muscle layer or beyond unless the doctor did something wrong, i.e., he pushed too hard; was not paying attention; etc.
This woman was survived by a loving husband of some 40 years, a husband who had recently stopped working and was looking forward to spending his retirement years with his long-time spouse. The couple also had two adult daughters who were very close to their mother. Although she was not a wage-earner, a major part of the wrongful death damages in this case were the husband's claim for the loss of "society and companionship" of his wife. They enjoyed a very close relationship for decades and now he was left on his own and missed his wife terribly. Insurance companies try to minimize the value of claims when you do not have evidence of income loss or medical bills, so-called special damages, but we emphasized what is known as the general damages, i.e., loss of companionship suffered by the husband in this wrongful death case.