Johnson & Bell Shareholder, Matthew L. Johnson, obtained a unanimous "not guilty" verdict in favor of a Bloomington, IL ob/gyn from a 12-person jury in McLean County, IL, on May 21. 2010. Plaintiff, a 31-year-old female horse trainer, claimed that the defendant surgeon violated the standard of care throughout two surgical procedures which he performed on her in May 2005. She also claimed that she suffered a bowel obstruction which required a third surgery to correct, and permanent episodes of abdominal pain and gastrointestinal (GI) issues for which there is no effective treatment. Plaintiff's counsel sought an award of over $700,000, and argued that the defendant ob/gyn negligently perforated plaintiff's bowel during the course of the initial procedure, admitted doing so to the patient and her friend after the surgery, and then made a negligent attempt at repairing the perforation during a second procedure two days later. Plaintiff claimed that she suffered from painful peritonitis for a period of three weeks, until she underwent a third surgery with a general surgeon, who found several pelvic abscesses. Medical specials were claimed in excess of $80,000.
The defense countered that plaintiff sustained a thermal injury to the bowel during the surgery as a result of the ob/gyn's use of electrosurgical scissors which were used at that time to remove scar tissue, and that such an injury is a rare but known complication of the procedure. The physician testified that he did not "admit" to patient that he accidentally perforated her bowel, and testified that his attempt to repair the small hole in her bowel was appropriate and within the standard of care. He further testified that his post-surgical care of the patient was appropriate and that she did not have peritonitis for three weeks. Defendant explained that the condition which necessitated the third surgery was a partial small bowel obstruction, which is a known and recognized complication of the bowel repair he performed. The defense also argued that plaintiff was not injured to the extent claimed, and that her treating surgeon had released her for resumption of her normal activities within 2 months of the third surgery. The jury deliberated for approximately 3 hours prior to coming to its verdict.