The husband and estate of a woman who developed blood clots and died shortly after undergoing outpatient knee surgery have been awarded more than $6 million.
In December of 2003, Ruby Quarles, 42, was referred by her primary care physician at Fort Benning’s Martin Army Community Hospital to an orthopedic surgeon to investigate complaints of worsening pain in her left knee, according to trial documents.
The surgeon, Dr.McKenzie, gave Quarles an injection for the pain and ordered physical therapy; during a follow-up visit in January 2004, McKenzie ordered an MRI to determine whether Quarles might have a tear in the cartilage of her knee.
The MRI indicated a “cartilaginous loose body” behind Quarles’ knee, according to the pre-trial order, and on Jan. 29 she underwent less than an hour of arthroscopic surgery at Doctors Hospital. McKenzie did not find any loose cartilage or other damage, and that afternoon Quarles’ daughter, Frances, took her home.
Frances Quarles came by the next morning to check on her mother and when she returned about lunch time, she found her mother dead on the bathroom floor.
An autopsy showed that deep venous thrombus had formed at the site of the surgery, and traveled to the lung causing a pulmonary embolism.
The case was “gut-wrenching,” said the widower’s attorney, Branch, who filed a suit in 2006 on behalf of Quarles’ widower, Farris Quarles, alleging medical malpractice against McKenzie and his employer, Chattahoochee Valley Bone and Joint Inc.
In trial documents Branch said that McKenzie ignored several risk factors that should have indicated that blood clotting could be a problem: the patient was somewhat obese and was taking birth control pills; she also had a personal history of asthma and hypertension and a family history of heart disease and stroke.
During the course of a one-week trial Branch said McKenzie did not observe post-surgery precautions that could have prevented the formation of the blood clots.
On Oct. 20, after three-and-a-half hours of deliberations, the jury awarded Quarles $6,000,001. Per O.C.G.A. §51-12-14, the judge added $471,575 as interest on the plaintiffs’ settlement demand of $2 million, which was rejected by the defense.
The case is Quarles v. McKenzie, No. SU06CV264-8
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