A St. Clair County jury found a local obstetrician/gynecologist not negligent on Tuesday evening following a seven-day trial involving a woman's hysterectomy performed seven years ago.
"The jury reached the right decision," said defense attorney Dawn Sallerson over the phone after the verdict was announced.
Margie Kaiser, 72, had claimed Dr. Anne Doll-Pollard negligently performed a hysterectomy Dec. 13, 2005 at St. Joseph's Hospital in Breese. Kaiser's attorney John Womick asked the jury for an award in excess of $450,000 during closing arguments Tuesday morning.
"This is not a million dollar lawsuit," Womick said.
He described his client as a patient who trusted and relied on her physician. Kaiser received care lower than standard, according to Womick.
"This case is because of the defendant's difficulty of accepting what happened," Womick said.
Kaiser and her husband, Lamar Kaiser, sat silently in the courtroom through the duration of the trial that started with jury selection on Aug. 20.
Womick said Doll-Pollard made a mistake she wouldn't admit to, but Doll-Pollard's attorney Sallerson countered that the doctor performed a "stellar procedure."
Womick asked the jury to consider how the surgery affected Kaiser. He said his client had scarring, and that probably bothered her. Her quality of life had changed and she had pain since the surgery seven years ago, he said.
"We all know there was internal bleeding," Womick said. "What caused the internal bleeding was the surgery."
She still has pain every single day, and that pain is from surgery, Womick said.
"You can't put Margie back the way she was before, but you can compensate her," Womick said.
Doll-Pollard couldn't believe she made a mistake on the surgery she performed, according to Womick.
"If you don't believe you made a mistake, in your own mind, you start to shade what happened," he said. "I had this strange theory back in law school, that doctors tell the truth."
The question of whether Kaiser's surgery was reasonable and whether Doll-Pollard caused Kaiser to start bleeding led to two questions, Sallerson said.
"To find Doll-Pollard negligent, you have to find she did something a reasonable physician would not do," Sallerson said.
A competent expert has to come in and prove Doll-Pollard was negligent, she explained.
"There's no question they [medical experts] are paid for their time, but they're not paid for their testimony," Sallerson said.
Lamar Kaiser knew bleeding and death were risks of this type of procedure, according to Sallerson.
"After she [Pollard] found bleeding, she fixed it," Sallerson said.
"She admitted the patient still had bleeding at the time of close.
"When you accuse a doctor of medical malpractice, it's a serious allegation, and you better have grounds for it.
"You can have post-op complications and not because you did something wrong
"It is the plaintiff's burden of proof to prove there was malpractice in this case, and they absolutely did not do that."
During opening arguments, Womick told the jury they would find Doll-Pollard's knowledge was "less than it should be," because the doctor frequently delivered babies but didn't do a lot of surgeries.
According to Womick, Doll-Pollard attempted a vaginal procedure, but found it wasn't going to work and then switched to abdominal surgery.
While in a recovery room, Kaiser started bleeding, Womick said.
In her lawsuit, Kaiser claimed Doll-Pollard failed to recognize that she suffered internal bleeding post-surgery and that she failed to recognize signs and symptoms of hypertension and atrial fibrillation, caused by the internal blood loss.
But Sallerson said Kaiser was "appropriately treated."
The jury in Circuit Judge Lloyd Cueto's court left to deliberate about 12:30 p.m. and reached its decision five hours later.