Man Awarded $5.75 Million by Jury in Medical Malpractice Suit

Man awarded $5.75 Million by jury in Medical Malpractice Suit

12/15/2003 Miami Daily Bus. Rev. 16

Miami Daily Business Review

Vol. 78, No. 131Copyright 2003 ALM Properties, Inc. All rights reserved.

December 15, 2003

Verdicts and Settlements

To Avoid Appeal, Man With $5.75 Million Med Mal Verdict Settles For $2 Million

Tony Doris

Case: Salvador Plasencia v. Jorge Echenique, M.D., and Miami Urological Surgical Consultants; Miami-Dade Circuit Court

Case No.: 00-14725-CA-30.

Plaintiff attorneys: Partner Marvin Kurzban and associate Jed Kurzban at Kurzban Kurzban Weinger & Tetzeli in Miami.

Defense attorneys: Partner David Dittmar and senior associate Patricia Murray at Dittmar & Hauser in Miami, represented Echenique; Peter Restani, a partner at Restani McAllister & Cassetty in Coral Gables, represented Miami Urological.

Judge: Barbara Levenson.

Details: Plasencia, a 37-year-old truck driver, sued for medical malpractice in August 2000, alleging that three physicians failed to properly diagnose or treat his kidney problems in a timely way. He eventually underwent a kidney transplant operation.

Plaintiff's case: In February 1996, Plasencia went to his general practitioner, Teresa Cardoso, with a variety of complaints. According to the suit, Cardoso performed a urinalysis and found a clear warning sign of serious kidney disease, namely the combined presence of blood and protein. But she allegedly failed to recognize the protein's presence, or its significance. She then tested him again, with the same results.

Cardoso referred the case to a urologist, Jorge Echenique, who performed two urinalyses. The plaintiff contended that these tests similarly showed the combined presence of blood and protein, but that Echenique also failed to recognize the significance of the results and didn't order follow-up tests.

A year later, Plasencia went back to Cardoso, who referred him to a second urologist, Arthur Lim of Miami Urological and Surgical Consultants. Plasencia alleged that Lim failed to interpret the available data or gather new data in a useful manner and instead sent him home.

Plasencia ultimately checked himself into a hospital, where it emerged that he had end-stage kidney failure, allegedly the result of untreated inflammation of kidney tissue.

Defense case: At trial, the defense argued that Plasencia's particular kind of kidney disease was untreatable, so that early detection would not have substantially changed the fact that needed a kidney transplant. "A directed verdict should have been entered in favor of the defendant," Dittmar said.

Defense also contended that Marvin Kurzban improperly introduced an allegation during closing arguments that Dr. Echenique altered records of a urinalysis test. Kurzban denied any improper conduct.

Outcome: Lim and Cardoso settled for undisclosed amounts prior to trial. After a 10-day trial, the jury deliberated for about five hours and on May 9 awarded Plasencia $5.75 million in damages. That consisted of $3 million in past pain and suffering; $1.5 million in future medical costs; $500,000 for two minor daughters' lost services and comfort, and anxiety; $443,000 in future lost earnings capability; $228,000 in past medical costs; and $78,000 in past lost earnings.

The jury found Cardoso 19 percent at fault, Echenique 53 percent at fault, and Lim and Miami Urological 27 percent at fault, with the plaintiff 1 percent at fault.

Post trial: Motions to set aside the verdict were denied. An appeal was filed to the 3rd District Court of Appeal. The case then settled for $1.35 million. After the verdict, Miami Urological also settled for a confidential amount. The total of all the settlements came to more than $2.1 million, said Marvin Kurzban. Plasencia eventually received a kidney transplant and is feeling better, his lawyers said.
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