Defense Verdict in Hootnick Medical Malpractice Trial

Posted by msch on Feb 17, 2011 7:27:00 PM

Hootnick v. Wideroff (West Palm Beach, FL).

Watch Rosemarie Antonacci-Pollock's closing argument, in which she shows the jury CVN video clips.

In this medical malpractice trial, Jacob Hootnick claimed that the amputation of his left leg above the knee could have been avoided.

In his closing argument on behalf of Mr. Hootnick, Bazinsky Korman's Don Korman told the jury that the the problem the 89-year old Mr. Hootnick had when he was admitted to Delray Medical Center in south Florida "was an acute occlusion of the popliteal artery -- not sub-acute; it had not happened days in advance. It was acute, and it should have been operated on." Mr. Korman reviewed the testimony that Mr. Hootnick had walked, swam, and even danced during the days prior to his admission, as well as the results of a physical examination that reported full motion of and no pain in Mr. Hootnick's foot immediately prior to his admission.

"If you listen to the defendants," said Mr. Korman, "Mr. Hootnick was at death's doorstep. Mr. Hootnick was septic. He was sick. Every organ in his body was under attack. He was gonna die. That's what Dr. Wideroff said -- he thought he was gonna die. Do you see any urgency, do you see anything that suggests they were overly concerned about this 89-year old diabetic [in the plan proposed by the admitting physician]?...Was he sent to the ICU?  No...Were there any special orders entered saying 'Monitor this man frequently,'? No." Instead, said Mr. Korman, Mr. Hootnick was placed on a medical floor, and nobody saw him for approximately ten hours. Nor was there any urgency, said Mr. Korman, on the part of the surgeon who was informed the following evening of the severe deterioration of Mr. Hootnick's leg.

The defense of the case, said Mr. Korman, was that Mr. Hootnick's condition had developed days earlier, and even if it hadn't, Mr. Hootnick was septic, so surgery would kill him.

But that story only emerges in retrospect, said Mr. Korman, through the lens of litigation and retained experts. The medical chart as it existed that evening revealed nothing about a risk of 'cowboy surgery' or a concern that Mr. Hootnick was going to die. Instead, said Mr. Korman, the surgeon chose not to operate because he erroneously concluded that it was too late to operate, even though it was not too late.

Mr. Hootnick's claims against the three physicians, Jonathan Wideroff, Alan Lieberman, and Julio Cardenas, were based on their alleged failure to timely and accurately diagnose, communicate, and/or treat Mr. Hootnick's condition.

On behalf of the defense, Falk Waas's Rosemarie Antonacci-Pollock told the jury, "There's a saying in medicine that it takes four years to teach a surgeon how to cut; but it takes a lifetime to teach them when not to cut. Fortunately for Jacob Hootnick, that was a lesson that Dr. Wideroff knew, and knew well. Because the evidence has shown that the only reason that Jacob Hootnick has lived to the age of 96, the only reason he has had his last seven birthdays, the only reason he has been here to celebrate his 70th wedding anniversary, and the only reason he has been able to travel around the country and attend his grandchildren's weddings these past seven years is because Dr. Wideroff exercised the kind of judgment that we hope all physicians will exercise in a similar circumstance...Not every patient is a surgical candidate, and you have to realize when you have the capacity to do harm."

The jury ruled in favor of all three defendants.

CVN webcast Hootnick v. Wideroff live.

Topics: Negligence, Medical Malpractice, Hootnick v. Wideroff