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Born with a hole in his heart, 2-month-old Gary Juliana II went to Shands Hospital in Gainesville, Fla., on Feb. 2, 1996, to get the defect repaired. Although the operation was not considered particularly dangerous, plaintiff’s attorney Christopher P. Jayson said that “Gary went in with a bad heart and good brain and came out with a good heart and a bad brain.” During surgery, the technician operating the heart-lung machine failed to provide sufficient oxygen to the child. This technician, the perfusionist, is supposed to check the patient’s blood gases and make corrections to ensure sufficient oxygen. But according to Jayson, he did not make the proper adjustments, and the boy sustained massive, permanent brain damage from lack of oxygen. Gary, who is now 6, has cerebral palsy, is blind, can’t talk and is so retarded that his IQ is “untestable,” said Jayson. His parents sued Shands Teaching Hospital and Clinics Inc. and the perfusionist, Rene Rivera-Santiago, charging negligence. Rivera-Santiago settled before trial for $2 million. The hospital contended that Rivera-Santiago was 100 percent at fault and that there was no vicarious liability because he was an independent contractor. Last July, however, the trial judge ruled against the hospital on the agency issue, determining that operation of a heart-lung machine during surgery is not a delegable duty. Although the jury considered only damages, the plaintiffs were concerned that many prospective jurors had connections to Shands, one of the county’s largest employers. The plaintiff was able to strike Shands employees for cause but couldn’t strike those with connections. As a result, four of the six jurors had a past or present affiliation to Shands, including one whose girlfriend worked there. Still, the Gainesville jury came through for the plaintiff: On Jan. 15, it awarded $10.83 million, which is believed to be the highest personal injury award in Alachua County history. Plaintiff’s attorneys: Barry A. Cohen, Christopher P. Jayson and Arthur B. Skafidas, of Cohen, Jayson & Foster in Tampa, Fla. Defense attorney: John Jopling of Dell Graham in Gainesville, Fla.

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