Dr. Fagel obtained a settlement of $5,700,000 million on behalf of a 22-year-old man who is now in a persistent vegetative state after going into respiratory and cardiac arrest after surgery. The plaintiff, then age 20, suffered 2nd and 3rd degree burns on his face, arms and upper chest in an accidental kitchen fire. He was taken to the Burn Unit at Los Angeles County Medical Center and had several surgeries for skin debridement and grafting. On June 22, 2006, he was taken back for another skin grafting surgery and was expected to make a full functional recovery and then be discharged home. The surgery lasted over six hours, during which the plaintiff received large amounts of fluids, and was completed without serious complications. Shortly after being returned to his bed, the patient complained of breathing difficulties and began thrashing about. The anesthesia resident went to the intensive care unit to ask if the patient could be transferred to the ICU. During the resident’s absence, the patient went into full respiratory and cardiac arrest. A Code Blue was called and, after nearly 20 minutes of intubation and multiple medication doses, the plaintiff was finally resuscitated. Subsequent exams showed evidence of severe hypoxic brain injuries. Due to the injuries he sustained, the plaintiff is now in a persistent vegetative state and requires continual care in a specialized neurocare facility.
The defense contended that all care was within standard and that unpredictable airway problems led to cardio-pulmonary arrest, which was then treated with prompt resuscitation. However, Dr. Fagel and his associates successfully argued that the complications were in fact predictable and that the defendant was negligent for failing to recognize respiratory problems shortly after the surgery. Furthermore, had the defendant intervened prior to the cardio-pulmonary, the plaintiff’s injuries could have been avoided.