Errors While Correcting Weight Loss Surgery Complications Led to $550,000 Settlement | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

What Happened

When our Virginia Beach, VA, client experienced severe complications after having her stomach stapled, she underwent repair surgery at Portsmouth Naval Hospital in Virginia. She was eligible for treatment at the U.S. military hospital because her husband was in the Navy.

The first weight loss surgery left her vomiting frequently and suffering from stomach ulcers. Navy doctors failed to correct these problems with a first revision, and our client’s health deteriorated to the point that she became unable to eat and needed to be fed liquids through a tube implanted into her gut. Additionally, stomach acids brought up by the uncontrollable vomiting rotted away her teeth, and she required a complete set of dentures.

The Navy doctors eventually told our client that she needed a complicated third procedure called a vagotomy and antrectomy, during which surgeons would remove several nerves from the lining of the top part of her stomach and cut out the lower half of her stomach completely.

This third surgery also failed to relieve her symptoms, so she hired our Virginia Beach-based medical malpractice law firm. One the first things we did was refer our client to various experts who we believed could stabilize her medical condition. We also asked trusted medical professionals to determine whether the doctors and surgeons at the naval hospital failed to follow standard medical practices.

The experts we consulted concluded that the surgical team who performed the first repair surgery at Portsmouth Naval Hospital made a life-threatening error when they failed to staple our client’s gastric pouch properly. This mistake created an improper gastric opening, which produced our client’s problems with eating and vomiting. Had the first revision been done correctly, no third surgery would have been needed.

Identifying the surgical error allowed our client to have the improper stomach opening closed. Finally, six years after first undergoing weight loss surgery, her ulcers cleared up and she stopped vomiting. She was, however, placed under lifelong nutritional restriction that are more stringent than those prescribed for other weight loss surgery patients.


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Key Legal Strategy

A federal judge must decide whether a medical malpractice victim can file a claim against doctors and surgeons who operate at U.S. military hospitals. We made the case on behalf of our client by having two very well-qualified gastric bypass surgery experts testify. We also hired a leading medical illustrator to work with our experts to create a detailed picture that showed the judge what happened to our client and why the improper repair procedure left her in such poor health.

Once we obtained permission to pursue our malpractice claim, we asked several of the Navy doctors and surgeons who treated our client to give depositions. One of those health care providers made several key admissions of medical malpractice under oath.

Federal rules prevented us from asking for a jury trial, but we were assigned to court-sponsored mediation. That process resulted in a $550,000 settlement for our client, reflecting the pain and suffering she had experienced, the cost of the fourth surgery she would need at a private hospital, and the expense of lifelong nutritional assistance.

Click here to learn more about our work for victims of all forms of medical malpractice in Virginia. If you think a doctor, surgeon, nurse or pharmacist has failed to meet his or her duty of care while treating you or a family member, read this to find out what you can do.

Staff: Richard N. Shapiro, attorney