Family Wins $5.9 Million In NY Bariatric Surgery Lawsuit

The family of Manhattan cabbie Warren Jupiter won $5.9 million in a bariatric surgery lawsuit against the government-run Manhattan VA Hospital. The 550-pound man underwent gastric bypass surgery in April of 2003. “He was looking forward to being thin,” he widow, Barbara Jupiter, told the NY Daily News. However, the Army vet died after a gastric leak went undetected for months because the doctors said he was “too fat to fit inside a CAT scan machine.”

Bariatric surgery lawsuit alleges long, painful death

By the time the leak was found, Jupiter was already riddled with infection and bed sores from which he never recovered. “I never saw anything in my life so horrific,” Barbara Jupiter testified. “It was like you actually cut someone open and you could see their insides.” Court records show the 54-year-old died two years later, after considerable suffering, in a Bronx VA nursing home.

Judge finds medical malpractice inexcusable

Meanwhile, the defense mounted a campaign to show that VA doctors tried – but were ultimately unsuccessful – in repairing the situation. At the time of his death, Warren Jupiter had withered down to 190 pounds. A psychiatric report alleged that Jupiter had starved himself as the result of a personality disorder. Dr. Thomas Gouge, the doctor who performed the surgery, said that Jupiter had grown too ill to undergo the leak repair operation. Furthermore, the defense argued that Jupiter was “a heavy gambler and emotionally troubled man” whose personal hygiene caused stress for the family.

Federal Judge Leo Glasser didn’t agree with the government’s claim that Jupiter weighed too much to be scanned, which he determined was “seriously flawed.” He ruled that it was “inexplicable and inexcusable” for doctors to fail in properly monitoring the man after surgery. A note in the medical records revealed that doctors considered sending the man to the Bronx Zoo to be scanned in a much larger machine built for “large animal capacity,” but no action was taken. The judge concluded, “My assessment of the degree of pain and suffering endured by Jupiter over a period of approximately 950 days is that it was gnawing and persistent,” and he awarded Jupiter’s widow $5 million and $900,000 to their three children.

Determining fault in botched bariatric surgeries

While there is inherent risk involved in operating on morbidly obese patients, doctors are still responsible for following proper protocol for weight loss surgery and follow-up. According to a review of 100 medical malpractice cases by the Surgical Weight Loss Center in Las Vegas, the most common adverse events leading to a bariatric surgery lawsuit included: leaks (53%), intra-abdominal abscess (33%), bowel obstruction (18%), major airway events (10%), organ injury (10%), and pulmonary embolism (8%). More than half of the patients died of their injuries, while 28% fully recovered, 12% had minor disability, and 7% had major disabilities. Evidence of negligence – either in a delayed diagnosis or misinterpreted vital signs — was found in 28% of the cases.

Weight loss surgery malpractice in New York

The Sanders Firm specializes in New York weight loss surgery malpractice claims. We sympathize with your situation and bring more than four decades of experience in successfully pursuing verdicts or settlements that can help right some of these wrongs. New Yorkers living in Manhattan, Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island or Long Island are invited to seek free, no obligation legal consultation with Sanders Firm personal injury attorneys by calling 1.800 FAIR PLAY.