By April White
A Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas jury award $1.1 million Friday to a plaintiff injured during the removal of his cancerous prostate, despite defense claims that the injury was an accepted complication of the procedure.
In 1996, Antonio Campagna underwent a radical prostatectomy performed by Hahnemann Hospital urologist Bruce Sloane. During the surgery, Campagna, then 59, suffered a lacerated rectum. As a result of the injury, Campagna underwent a colostomy in February 1996 and a series of operations to repair a fistula, an opening which allowed urine and feces to mix. Eventually, Campagna’s bladder was removed; the colostomy was later reversed. According to plaintiff’s counsel, Paul A. Lauricella of McLaughlin & Lauricella, P.C., rectal lacerations occur in only 1 percent of prostatectomies. “Injuries of the severity of Antonio’s are a rarity,” he said.
E. Chandler Hosmer of Goldfein & Joseph, who represented Sloane, countered that claim, saying, “What, unfortunately, happened was a known and accepted complication of the surgery.” Hahnemann Hospital was dismissed from the suit prior to trial. The defense plans to appeal the $1 million award to Antonio Campagna and the $100,000 award to his wife, Angela. Plaintiff’s counsel hopes to add approximately $200,000 in delay damages to the total.
During the five-day trial, plaintiff and defense experts squared off in front of Judge Jacqueline F. Allen and the jury. According to Lauricella, one defense witness, Dr. Terry Malloy of Pennsylvania Hospital, was key to the plaintiff’s win. Malloy had treated Campagna following the prostatectomy. Lauricella approached the doctor for an opinion in the case, but the “well-known defense-oriented urologist” found no evidence of substandard technique. The defense decided to call Malloy to testify as to his findings, which he had kept on record, Lauricella said. Hosmer disputed the plaintiff’s counsel’s version of events but declined to comment further.
“I was in the unenviable position of having to discredit an expert who had not only operated on my client but from whom I had also originally sought an opinion,” Lauricella said. He revealed to the jury that Malloy had been the subject of a lawsuit for an identical injury, he said. Lauricella also presented testimony from the plaintiff, his wife, his daughter, the physician who repaired the rectal laceration, and a urologist.
“The main theme was that the defendant’s ego got in the way of his proper judgment, and when he encountered difficulty removing the prostate, he should have asked for help. Instead, he cut blindly,” Lauricella said.
“I told the jury ‘I wouldn’t expect my haircutter to cut my hair without seeing; I wouldn’t expect my surgeon to perform surgery without seeing.'”