St. Clair County jury clears St. Louis plastic surgeon in med-mal case

Ann Knef Dec. 9, 2008, 7:00am



A St. Louis plastic surgeon has been cleared in a St. Clair County medical malpractice case that took jurors about four hours to decide.

Tiffany Shanklin, 26, of East St. Louis sued Dr. Stanley Librach in 2003 over complications from a medically-necessary breast reduction surgery performed in 2001.

Shanklin, who was 19 at the time the procedure took place at Touchette Hospital in East St. Louis, claimed Librach failed to properly perform a skin graft.

The hospital had also been named as a defendant, but was later dismissed from the case.

"A nurse…told Plaintiff Tiffany Shanklin that her surgery and/or after care were 'messed up,'" stated Shanklin's complaint.

Among other things, she also claimed she had been released from the hospital while her wounds were still open, sore and infected.

Her suit stated Librach, "dissected the superior breast flaps up to the clavicles above, which was hazardous to the residual blood supply...," and, "failed to see/examine plaintiff for one week post-surgery during which time plaintiff suffered a dehiscence of the vertical incision of the left breast with breast skin loss."

Shanklin was represented by Bill Walker of Granite City. He had asked jurors to award his client between $400,000 to $1 million.

Librach was represented by James Neville and Luke Dalton of Neville, Richards & Wuller in Belleville.

Dalton said the defense argued that Librach did comply with standards of care "at all times."

"Skin loss is a complication even under the best of care," Dalton said.

Neville said he believes the jurors did a thorough job of going over their instructions and concluded that the plaintiff "did not meet her burden of proof."

"What jurors ultimately concluded, and this is my surmise, is that this patient unfortunately had a loss of skin that can happen with the best of surgical techniques," he said. "It has happened to even the most experienced (surgeons). Those are things that can happen."

He said one of the significant moments in the four-day trial happened when the plaintiff's medical expert testified that the complications suffered by Shanklin had happened to him two or three times.

"Each time, he felt he had not deviated from the standard of care," Neville said. "It was just a complication.

"But when it happened to her it was not a complication, it was a malpractice."

St. Clair County Circuit Court Judge Patrick Young presided at trial that concluded Dec. 4.

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