A civil verdict of almost $10 million was returned Wednesday in a lawsuit filed by a Lexington hairdresser who became a paraplegic after routine heart surgery.
A Fayette Circuit Court jury assigned 31 percent of fault — or $3,057,894.49 — to the surgeon, Dr. Michael Sekela of Surgical Associates of Lexington. The verdicts against the other defendants, Fresenius Medical Care and Central Kentucky Anesthesia, are moot because they had already settled with the patient and did not participate in the trial, said Sekela's attorney, Rich Schiller of Louisville.
A review of the Kentucky Trial Court Review indicates that Wednesday's verdict could be the largest medical malpractice verdict to ever come out of Fayette County.
The plaintiff, Latricia Satterwhite, had surgery on the mitral valve in her heart on April 19, 2006. The surgery took less than an hour and was successful.
But, according to medical experts who testified on her behalf, the surgeon misplaced the cannula, or hose, for a machine that pumps blood during the surgery. The misplacement caused too much blood and oxygen to be pumped to her right hand and too little to her brain and thoracic spinal cord, the experts testified.
Satterwhite, who worked at Great Clips on East High Street, can no longer walk. She also suffered mild to moderate brain damage, said her attorney, James Bolus of Louisville.
"No one wins here," Bolus said. "The surgeon has to live with the fact this occurred. Unfortunately, he wanted to go trial."
Schiller said Sekela disputes that the cannula was misplaced or that he caused her paralysis.
Schiller said his client is considering an appeal.
"Its always unhappy when you have a verdict like this," Schiller said. "We are in shock and disbelief that it happened."
Satterwhite was awarded $455,229.06 in past medical expenses and $4,426,408.72 for future medical bills. She was awarded $482,538 in lost wages and $4.5 million for pain and suffering.
The total verdict was $9,864,175.78.
Sekela was found at fault by a 10-2 vote of the jury. The anesthesiologist shared 23 percent of the fault, and the perfusionist, the person who operates the heart-lung machine. was responsible for 41 percent of fault, the jury found.