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Wicomico med-mal verdict tops $1.2M

A Wicomico County woman was awarded $1.2 million in damages in her medical malpractice lawsuit against a cardiologist who left her with permanent nerve damage in her foot and leg.

On June 3, 2010, Joseph A. Cinderella, a cardiologist at Delmarva Heart LLC in Berlin, performed a cardiac catheterization procedure on Irene Vetra, said her attorney, Laurence A. Marder.

In the procedure, a wire tool and catheter go into the body through the groin, go up the descending aorta and down the ascending aorta. The doctor watches the wire on a monitor.

During Vetra’s procedure, the wire perforated the base of the aortic valve in the left ventricle and became stuck. The doctor had to perform open heart surgery on Vetra, Marder said. Because the catheter was left in place for so long, Vetra developed blood clots, causing loss of blood flow which in turn damaged the nerves in Vetra’s right leg and foot.

Marder said the doctor should have noticed the problem and stopped the procedure before the wire became stuck.

“The way in which this wire became stuck is in itself evidence of inattention, and pushing against resistance is negligent,” said Marder, a partner with Salsbury Clements Bekman Marder & Adkins LLC in Baltimore.

Marder said he found no reports in medical history of a wire getting stuck during this procedure.

“It’s something that can be easily seen by the operator or cardiologist, which is why this never happens,” Marder said.

Defense attorney Curtis H. Booth of Cowdrey Thompson in Easton offered another reason for the rarity, calling the perforation an “absolute freak complication.”

Booth said the matter was reviewed internally by the center’s cardiology department before charges were filed, and the members of the department found that Cinderella’s care had been “exemplary.”

That memo, however, was not used in Cinderella’s defense since peer reviews are not admissible in court under state law.

Booth said the wire slipped through a pre-existing hole in the valve, which few people have and are not detectable over the monitor.

“There is nothing [Cinderella] could have done to anticipate or prevent this from happening,” Booth said.

Marder said he established that there was no such hole and that even if there were, it was not what caused the wire to get stuck.

Vetra, who lives in Princess Anne, now deals with permanent “burning-type pain,” which is only reduced and never completely relieved by pain medication, Marder said. Vetra can barely sleep at night, getting only two to three hours of rest on a 36- to 48-hour cycle, he said.

“The jury understood the case and we strongly believe justice was administered,” Marder said. “We felt that the injuries were not just life-altering but life-destroying.”

Marder filed suit against Cinderella and Delmarva Heart in Wicomico County Circuit Court on Jan. 26, 2011. The case went to a jury trial this month, with Judge Kathleen L. Beckstead presiding.

Last Monday, a jury awarded Vetra $900,000 in non-economic damages, $50,000 for past medical expenses and about $250,000 for future medical expenses.

After the cap, Marder said, the award for non-economic losses would be about $680,000.

Booth said his client had not yet decided whether to appeal.

“Given everything, disappointment is an understatement,” Booth said, “especially given the conviction with which [Cinderella] believed this was an unpreventable, un-recreatable complication.”

VETRA V. DELMARVA HEART LLC

Court:

Wicomico County Circuit Court

Case No.:

22C11000114

Judge:

Kathleen L. Beckstead

Outcome:

Plaintiff’s verdict — $1.2M; $680,000 in non-economic losses expected after cap

Dates:

Event: June 3, 2010

Suit filed: January 26, 2011

Trial: May 1 to May 4, 2012

Verdict: May 7, 2012

Plaintiff’s Attorneys:

Laurence A. Marder of Salsbury Bekman Marder & Adkins LLC

Defendant’s Attorneys:

Curtis H. Booth of Cowdrey Thompson

Plaintiff’s Experts:

Dr. Krucoff, Dr. Neal Shadoff, Dr. Thomas Borzilleri, Dr. Martin Z. Kanner

Defendant’s Experts:

Dr. Jon R. Resar, Dr. Jon Altschuler

Count:

Medical malpractice