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Brooklyn jury awards $62M in med-mal case

Brooklyn attorney Sanford Rubenstein. Photo courtesy of Rubenstein & Rynecki

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

A Brooklyn jury awarded $62 million to a woman who lost her hearing and both of her limbs after a seemingly routine surgical procedure at a Long Island hospital.

Stacey Galette was awarded $58 million for pain and suffering and over $3million in special damages on Friday following a three-month trial in Brooklyn's Supreme Court. Galette sued Winthrop-University Hospital on Long Island and three doctors after the 2009 laparoscopic removal of an ectopic pregnancy.  

Galette, 33, was discharged from the hospital in 2009 despite complaints of stomach pains following the routine gynecological procedure. Galette returned to the hospital the next day unable to bear the pain. She was taken into surgery, and when she awoke, both of her legs had been amputated.

“I was having pain in my legs. I thought it’s from [the blood compression sleeves—used to help blood circulate post-surgery],” Galette testified during the trial against Winthrop. “I told my dad to release the pressure cuffs off my legs, and my dad told me it’s not pressure cuffs … my legs had to be amputated,” her testimony continued.

At trial, Galette's attorney, Sanford Rubenstein, argued that a punctured colon during the procedure lead to infections and blood poisoning causing her limbs to go gangrene. Doctors first attempted to squelch the infection by amputating Galette’s feet. After this measure failed and the infection continued to rage on, surgeons amputated both legs below the knee. To combat the dangerous infection, doctors pumped Galette with highly potent antibiotics — the side effects of which caused her to lose some of her hearing.

The single mother of a 13-year-old daughter told the Brooklyn jury how depressed she became after being made fully aware of the gravity of her medical situation. “I was crying, I was upset because I had my daughter,” she stated. “I couldn’t take care of my daughter the way I used to.”

Attorneys for Winthrop argued that the efforts of the doctors and surgeons actually saved Galette’s life. “Ms. Galette has made, on many fronts, a remarkable recovery. She certainly will be able to work,” attorney Peter DeNoto said of the wheelchair-bound Galette who still uses a colostomy bag to drain her bodily waste.

“She can still have a productive life,” DeNoto continued in his opening statements to the jury during the November trial. “Unfortunately, the treatment she needed had very serious side effects.” Winthrop contended that Galette had an underlying bowel condition that caused her bowel to burst secreting waste and infection throughout Galette’s body.

A Brooklyn jury did not take Winthrop’s argument at face value and awarded Galette $20 million for past pain and suffering, $38 million for future pain and suffering and over $3 million for cost of medical treatments. “The jury’s award was appropriate for the horrendous injuries she suffered,” Galette’s trial counsel Edward Sanocki said in a released statement.  

A spokesperson for Winthrop stated, after the jury award was announced last Friday, that the doctors diagnosed Galette’s complication quickly and treated it as best they could but her condition deteriorated rapidly. The efforts of the doctors saved Galette’s life, the spokesperson continued echoing arguments made at trial, but left her disabled.

“This verdict demonstrates our system of civil justice works for victims particularly those who suffer horrible injuries through no fault of their own," Rubenstien noted.

January 14, 2014 - 3:00pm


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