Mary G. Pryor, Senior Member with The Cavanagh Law Firm, P.A. in Phoenix, Arizona, recently obtained a defense verdict in a medical malpractice case involving recurrent appendicitis. The plaintiff, a 46 year old male, developed acute appendicitis and underwent a laparoscopic appendectomy by the defendant general surgeon in June 2008. In April 2009, the plaintiff underwent a diagnostic laparoscopy and laparoscopic appendectomy for what turned out to be another episode of appendicitis. He had no further abdominal problems since early May 2009.
The plaintiff alleged that the defendant general surgeon fell below the standard of care in failing to completely remove the appendix during the first surgery. He further claimed that three subsequent hospitalizations and the second appendectomy surgery were due to the general surgeon’s alleged failure to completely remove the appendix during the first surgery. The defendant general surgeon denied all negligence, and had a multi-pronged defense at trial: (1) that the general surgeon followed appropriate procedures in identifying the base of the appendix and did, in fact, remove the entire appendix; (2) that both stump appendicitis and duplicate appendicitis are documented in the literature, and both occur in the absence of negligence; (3) that the appendix removed at the second surgery was a duplicate appendix, in a completely different anatomic area than the first appendix; and (4) that regardless of whether this was a “stump” appendix or a duplicate appendix, by following what plaintiff’s expert agreed were appropriate procedures in identifying and isolating the base of the appendix, the general surgeon reasonably believed that he had completely removed the appendix during the first surgery and therefore complied with the standard of care.
After a two-week trial and after approximately two hours of deliberations, the jury returned a unanimous verdict in favor of the defense.