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Federal Jury Awards $20 Million for Disfiguring Infection After Facelift Hayes v. Cha: A federal jury in Camden awarded $20 million last Monday to a Philadelphia woman who blamed a plastic surgeon’s unsanitary instruments for her disfiguring infection after a 1995 facelift. Mary Hayes was awarded $15 million for pain and suffering, disability and loss of enjoyment of life, and her husband was awarded $5 million for loss of consortium. After plastic surgeon Yong Cha performed the facelift in his Woodbury office, Hayes developed painful sores on her face that topical medications could not relieve. She consulted other plastic surgeons and dermatologists, who treated her with antibiotics that suppressed but did not cure the condition. Six years later, after numerous tests and failed treatments, she was diagnosed with mycobacteria fortuitum — akin to leprosy and necrosis. Hayes’ lawyer, Frank Allen, a partner at Archer & Greiner in Haddonfield, says infections left her face disfigured despite two reconstructive surgeries. Jurors saw photos of Hayes before the facelift, and Allen says he believes they were impressed by the dramatic change. Hayes, 56, an artist and homemaker, testified that before her facelift she regularly entertained clients of her husband’s law practice, but stopped doing so because of the infection. The antibiotics applied were so strong that she suffered hearing loss and arthritis and was confined to her bed during treatment. Her husband, Edward, testified that he reduced the number of hours he put into his practice because of his wife’s health problems. During trial before Judge Joel Rosen, defense witnesses corroborated the plaintiff’s claims that Cha failed to meet the standards of care for sterilizing his operating room and for keeping records on sterilization, Allen says. Allen says the defense lawyer, Robert Donnelly Jr., did not dispute the unsanitary procedures but contested that they caused the infection. Donnelly, a partner at Dughi, Hewit & Palatucci in Cranford, did not return calls seeking comment. Allen says that before trial, Cha’s malpractice insurance carrier, Princeton Insurance Co., had declined an offer to settle for the $1 million policy limit. � By Charles Toutant $4.7M for Medical Malpractice Gonzalez v. Agarwal: A Middlesex County jury awarded $4.7 million Wednesday to a woman who alleged that her doctor’s failure to treat her headaches led to a disabling brain-stem hemorrhage. The recovery would have been $7.2 million, but the jury found the plaintiff 35 percent liable. Prejudgment interest is worth $1.27 million. Noemi Gonzalez, now 40, of Paterson, won the award against Ashoke Agarwal, also of Paterson, according to the plaintiff’s lawyer, Joseph Collini of Paterson’s Emolo & Collini. Collini says he presented evidence that Gonzalez complained of headaches during visits from May 1996 to December 1998. In August 1999, she suffered the hemorrhage, which left her with cognitive impairment, loss of memory, slurred speech, weakness on her right side and walking difficulties that require her to use a wheelchair. Collini says the doctor was negligent in not ordering a magnetic resonance imaging test that would have shown the headaches were caused by a congenital lesion treatable with radiation. Defense counsel Sean Buckley, of Princeton’s Buckley & Theroux, did not return a call for comment on Thursday, but Collini says the defense contended that Gonzalez never complained of headaches until a final visit and ignored the doctor’s advice to return if the condition continued. The defense also suggested the lesion did not form until after the period in which Gonzalez was in Agarwal’s care. The damages of $7.2 million were mostly for pain and suffering and future health care, but the jury also awarded about $180,000 in lost past and future earnings. Gonzalez was a supervisor for Laidlaw Inc., a transportation company. The jury concluded that the plaintiff’s failure to heed the doctor’s advice made her 35 percent responsible, Collini says. He says he demanded the $3 million policy limit early in the case but received no offer from the carrier, Princeton Insurance Co. Superior Court Judge Melvin Gelade presided over the trial. � By Henry Gottlieb $1M for Medical Malpractice Rosamilia v. DeFazio: A man who claimed a stroke was caused by a cardiologist’s negligent postsurgical care settled his suit for $1 million on Dec. 1. Sam Rosamilia, now 51, of Clifton, was left with partial paralysis of the face and right leg after a stroke in April 2000. Two months before, Rosamilia underwent a heart valve replacement at St. Michael’s Medical Center in Newark. Plaintiff’s attorney, Barry Eichen, a partner with Edison’s Eichen Levinson, says the suit charged that the cardiologist, Ernest DeFazio, failed to properly regulate the dosage of the blood thinner Coumadin after surgery, resulting in a blood clot. The case was set for trial on Nov. 17, but Essex County Judge Eugene Codey adjourned it because he felt the parties were close to settlement. DeFazio’s attorney, Robert Logan, an associate at Hackensack’s Hein, Smith, Berezin, Maloof & Jacobs, declines to comment. Eichen says the defense disputed that the stroke was related to the Coumadin level. Princeton Insurance Co. was the carrier for DeFazio. � By Charles Toutant $500,000 Ends Landmark P.I. Case Laidlow v. Hariton Machinery Co.: A $500,000 settlement on Dec. 1 ended a suit that led to a state Supreme Court ruling allowing employees to overcome the Workers’ Compensation Act bar and sue over dangers created by employers. Rudolph Laidlow, now 72, of Mine Hill, was injured in 1992 when his hand was sucked into a machine at AMI-Doduco Inc. in Cedar Knolls, an electrical component maker based in Export, Pa. Laidlow’s dominant left hand was crushed and he lost the tips of three fingers. He had multiple surgeries, and had to learn to write with his right hand. He can no longer do such tasks as buttoning clothes or tying shoes, says his lawyer, Kenneth Fost. Laidlow returned as an inspector, losing no compensation. He has retired. Laidlow alleged that AMI-Doduco added a safety gate after it bought the machine second-hand about 12 years earlier but disengaged the guard, using it only during inspections by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. As a result, the Supreme Court ruled, at 170 N.J. 602 (2002), that Laidlow could pursue an intentional tort claim against AMI-Doduco and try to overcome the company’s worker’s compensation immunity by proving a substantial certainty of harm. The company argued that Laidlow’s operation of the machine without the guard for 12 years showed injury was not probable, according to Fost, a partner with Fost & Caruso in Morristown. Fost says, however, that Laidlow’s bulky gloves got caught in the machine several times through the years, though he was able to pull his hands out. Laidlow and his wife, Jean, sued in Morris County. The defendants were AMI-Doduco; the company that sold it the machine, Hariton Machinery Co. of Bridgeport, Conn.; and the original manufacturer, United Engineering & Foundry Co. of Pittsburgh. Hariton was let out on summary judgment and the Laidlows settled with United in 1999 for $325,000, says Fost. AMI-Doduco’s liability carrier, Liberty Mutual Insurance, disclaimed coverage based on the alleged intentional nature of the conduct. A coverage suit is pending, adds Fost. AMI-Doduco’s lawyer, Raymond Fitzgerald, of Rutherford’s Butler, Fitzgerald & Potter, did not return a call seeking comment. Neither did William Martin, of Martin Gunn & Martin in Westmont, who represents Liberty in the coverage suit. � By Mary P. Gallagher

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