$68M Verdict: Animating Heart Surgeries After Negligence Results in Vegetative Patient

Ricardo Echeverria, Esq., Shernoff Bidart Echeverria, LLP, Claremont, CA

Medical mistakes kill more than 250,000 Americans every year according to John Hopkins University, making medical malpractice the third leading cause of death in the United States. But what happens when you survive one of these mistakes, only to exist for the rest of your life in a non-responsive, vegetative state?

News at 5 explains the medical complications that ultimately resulted in a $68M verdict.

The Plaintiff in this case entered a hospital to undergo a very complex open heart surgery to repair an aortic aneurysm and have his aortic heart valve replaced. Six years later, the patient is still in a minimally conscious state with the absence of responsiveness and awareness.

He opens his eyes. He doesn’t respond. He doesn’t track you with his eyes if you’re talking to him or calling him. There’s no form of communication whatsoever.
The Plaintiff’s Son

An investigation by the CA State Department of Public Health found that the Defendant surgeon walked away from the surgery before the Plaintiff’s chest was closed. The Defendant surgeon also directed an Physician’s Assistant to complete the extremely complicated heart surgery, which the Physician’s Assistant confirmed in testimony during the trial.

The Defense argued that the surgery was a high-risk procedure, and what the Plaintiff suffered was “an extremely rare complication.”

Ricardo Echeverria, Esq., needed to magnify the egregious level of careless negligence involved the Defendant’s decision to put this high-risk procedure in the hands of a Physician Assistant. He tasked our team with building an animation that would walk jurors through this deadly, high-risk procedure that the Defendant chose to hand off to an assistant.

The animation helped Mr. Echeverria convince the jury to award his client a $68M verdict - the largest medical malpractice verdict in this history of Fresno County, CA. $12.38M involved punitive damages.

Animating Proper Procedures

In order to help jurors comprehend the profound danger involved in walking away from this procedure, we built Mr. Echeverria this animation to demonstrate what this surgery entailed.

Animating the Complexities of Heart Surgery

The animation first introduces how valves in the heart become diseased, weaken, and then balloon out into an aneurysm. This potentially deadly condition requires surgery before the aorta ruptures.

This is an Aortic Aneurysm (1:27 in Animation Above).

During this surgery, the chest sternum must be split open and retracted to access the heart valve. An incision is then made into the Pericardium outer membrane of the heart. Animating each of these steps helped capture the jury’s understanding of the danger involved.

This is how the sternum is split open to access the heart (2:22 in Animation Above).

A bypass was then performed to redirect blood flow so that a surgical incision could be made on the aorta and the damaged valve could be accessed without losing blood. The damaged valve was then removed and replaced with an artificial valve.

The damaged valve was removed and replaced with an artificial valve (3:33 in Animation Above).

Finally, the Aortic aneurysm is repaired with a graft. The heart is restarted and removed from the bypass. A chest tube is then placed before the sternum is closed with wire and skin is closed with sutures or staples. The Defendant left the surgery before this final part of the surgical procedure was completed.

After repairing the Aortic aneurysm with a graft, the heart is restarted (3:55 in Animation Above).

High Impact’s team of visual strategists, artists and developers can build and customize your digital presentation for any case involving personal injury, medical malpractice, birth trauma - or any subject involving complex information.

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