Family Gets $7.5 Million in Death After Spleen Removal

A Cook County jury awarded $7.5 million to the family of 49-year-old Juan Fernandez, who died of complications from a surgery to remove his spleen. Fernandez underwent the surgery at the University of Illinois Medical Center in 2007 because he suffered from a disorder that prevented his blood from clotting properly.

The operation was performed using the “da Vinci Robotic Surgical System.” Fernandez was found to have suffered two holes in his duodenum, an organ located between six and ten inches from the spleen. After the surgery, he developed sepsis, which caused several of his organs to fail and which led to fatal brain damage. He left behind a wife and an 11-year-old son. The family filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against four doctors, all of whom denied that the holes were caused by the surgery. Attorney Ted McNabola and Attorney Theodore C. Jennings of represented the family.

McNabola argued that while it was not wrong of the doctors to have used the robot for the surgery, it was very likely unnecessary. “It’s kind of like using an 18-wheeler to go pick up a carton of milk,” he said. The family pursued the claim under the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur, alleging that the accident didn’t occur without negligence.

McNabola was able to convince the jury to award $7.5 million in damages to Fernandez’s surviving family, including $4.5 million for loss of consortium, $1.5 million for loss of a normal life, $1 million for past medical bills, and $500,000 for pain and suffering. However, due to a high-low agreement negotiated by both sides before the verdict, the family was able to collect $6 million.

“I think the family is heartened by the fact that the jury saw the truth,” said McNabola. “But it’s a hollow victory for the family because Juan led an exemplary life and was a wonderful person who made the family the most important thing in his life. And the wife and son will never get him back.”

Click here to view the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin’s coverage of this verdict: “Family gets $7.5 million in death after spleen removal.”