A Madison County jury ruled in favor of Maryville plastic surgeon Dr. R. Craig McKee on Friday after deliberating nearly 16 hours over two days in a medical malpractice case over a breast reduction surgery.
At one point, the jury informed Madison County Circuit Judge Andy Matoesian they could not reach a unanimous decision and that further deliberations would be in vain, which caused the seasoned judge to read the jury deadlock instructions to encourage them to deliberate longer.
The jury returned to deliberate and roughly one hour later, reached a defense verdict.
"This was really a difficult case," a female juror who asked not to be identified said after the verdict was read. "I never thought all 12 of us would be able to agree one way or the other, but when we were told we had to reach a verdict, we debated longer and reached the verdict we did."
The plaintiff, Carrie Zang of Witt, Ill. filed suit against McKeein 2001, alleging he violated the standard of care while performing a bilateral reduction mammoplasty with free nipple graft operation on Nov. 22, 1999 at Anderson Hospital in Maryville.
According to Zang, 41, McKee ignored her directive and desire that she be left with average size breasts that would complement her frame when he proceeded to remove 2,553 grams from her right breast and 2,957 grams from her left breast.
There are 454 grams per pound.
At trial, Zang testified she needed the surgery to relieve neck and back pain. She testified McKee submitted a pre-operative plan in which he stated he would be removing 1,000 grams of breast tissue from each breast.
Zang also testified that McKee failed to leave an appropriate amount of tissue necessary for a nipple graft causing one of her nipples to fail and fall off her chest after the surgery was performed.
Zang also testified McKee severed a nerve during the operation and that he did not close the surgical sites properly due to the lack of tissue needed to do so.
Bob Perica of Wood River represents Zang.
McKee testified that he did not violate the standard of care and that Zang was aware of all the possible side effects related to the surgery and gave her informed consent.
The doctor testified that his note regarding removing 1,000 grams of tissue from each breast was only a minimum standard for insurance purposes.
McKee was represented by Ransom Wuller of Belleville.
After Matoesian read the verdict form both sides broke down in tears, but for different reasons.
McKee's wife immediately showed emotions of joy along with her husband and Zang and her daughter cried tears of sadness.
"What was difficult in the case is that her (Zang) back pain subsided after the surgery," the juror said. "The doctor seemed creditable when he said she got the result she wanted."
Zang, McKee and Wuller did not comment after the verdict, but Perica said he would weigh his options of post-trial motions and a possible appeal because of the notes and answers sent back to the jury during deliberations.
The jury sent Matoesian four notes asking questions during the trial.
The first note asked about oral consent and the second note asked what the definition of injury was. Matoesian referred the jury to the jury instructions that was given to them.
In the third note, the jury asked Matoesian if they could see the transcript of Perica's cross examination of McKee and McKee's discovery deposition. Matoesian told the jury they could not.
In the fourth note, the jury asked Matoesian if they could find for the plaintiff on one count, and not the other.
The jury had two issues to deliberate on, whether McKee, violated the standard of care as alleged in Count I of the complaint and whether Zang gave her informed consent.
But, Matoesian's answer to the jury caused some controversy.
Perica wanted Matoesian to refer the jury to their instructions and Wuller had concerns over the answer to the first question about consent.
Wuller told Matoesian that he feared the jury was confused by the answer to the first question dealing with informed consent and instead of debating whether Zang gave consent to the surgery, was now debating whether McKee committed battery upon Zang, something they should not even be deliberating about.
Over Perica's objection, Matoesian answered the fourth note by telling the jury "Zang consented to the surgery for certain." He said that they needed to decide if McKee properly informed Zang of all the possible side effects before the surgery.
Matoesian also told the jury they could find for Zang on one count and not the other.
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