The Florida Supreme Court will hear arguments this week in the medical negligence case against North Broward Hospital District and anesthesiologist Dr. Robert Alexander. In 2007, plaintiff Susan Kalitan underwent outpatient surgery to treat carpal tunnel syndrome in her wrist. Under general anesthesia and during intubation, her esophagus was perforated. The hospital released her the same day without noticing the damage.
Esophageal perforation is a medical emergency. Statistics show that a delay in diagnosis of more than 24 hours doubles the overall mortality rate from 14 to 27 percent. Ms. Kalitan was not diagnosed in the hospital and sent home. A neighbor found her unresponsive the following day and her condition required life saving surgery to repair her esophagus. More surgery followed.
The trial court jury voted in favor of Kaltian, finding that she had suffered catastrophic injury and awarded her $4,718,011 in total damages. Relying on Florida’s statutory cap on damages, the court then limited the award by approximately $3.3M. In 2015 the Florida Fourth District Court of Appeals reversed the circuit court’s decision and reinstated the total damages award. North Broward Hospital District, et al., responded by appealing to the Florida Supreme Court.
Medical malpractice litigation against anesthesiologists may arise from procedural complications following the placement of an epidural catheter or administration of anesthesia by intubation. Failure to control an airway during intubation may result in serious damage. As this case demonstrates, medical negligence litigation can be very complex. A top anesthesiology expert witness is a key aspect of any medical malpractice case regarding the standard of care in the administering of anesthesia.