Sponge Left Inside Gallbladder Surgery Patient Leads to $350,000 Settlement | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

What Happened

Our Virginia medical malpractice client experienced serious complications following gallbladder removal surgery because the surgeon left a sponge inside his abdominal cavity. Removing the sponge and repairing the damage done by the foreign object and resulting infection required a follow-up surgery to extensively reconstruct the man’s bowels.

The surgical error victim was 55 years old when he first began complaining of stomach pain. He is mentally challenged and, at the time, lived with his elderly mother. She took our client to the hospital, where doctors determined that his gallbladder would have to be removed.

The surgical team used several sponges to control bleeding during the gall bladder removal procedure, but the surgeon overseeing the surgery failed to ensure that nurses and assistants kept an accurate count of how many surgeries went into the patient and how many came out.

About four months after having his gall bladder removed, the man again complained of severe stomach pain. Recovering from the sponge removal and bowel repair surgery took nearly eight months. The man and his mother also incurred approximately $50,000 in additional and avoidable medical expenses.


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Key Legal Strategy

We filed a medical malpractice insurance claim against the surgeon who oversaw the gall bladder removal. The insurer rejected the claim, arguing that the nurses were solely responsible for losing count of the sponges.

Our Virginia medical malpractice attorney defeated the insurer’s argument by presenting two statements from expert witness surgeons who testified that they would have equal or great responsibility with nurses for keeping track of sponge use.

Presented with incontrovertible evidence that its medical malpractice insurance policyholder had failed to follow standard procedures and failed to provide his patient with usual and customary care, the insurer agreed to negotiate a settlement. In the end, the man who suffered so much from having a surgical sponge left inside him received $350,000.

Succeeding with a Virginia medical malpractice case requires showing not only that a doctor or surgeon made a mistake, but also that other doctors or surgeons would not have made that particular mistake. Our plaintiff’s attorney was able to meet this legal standard by clearly demonstrating that the surgeon who performed the gall bladder surgery did not do what other surgeons would when counting sponges.

Court and Date: Chesapeake Circuit Court, Chesapeake, VA, 2010

Staff: Staff attorney