News Brief

Shepperd and Ponce Deflect Negligence/ Liability from Client Anesthesiologist in Severe Burn Case

January 24, 2023

John Shepperd (Partner-Houston) and Sean Ponce (Associate-Houston) represented a Proassurance insured anesthesiologist in a case in which a patient undergoing cosmetic surgery suffered first, second and third degree burns to her inner thighs when the hose normally inserted into a warming blanket was placed between her legs, causing hot air to blow on her for two hours. The surgeon, who owned the surgery center, settled prior to trial, leaving the anesthesiologist as the sole remaining defendant. Our client maintained that he monitored the patient’s temperature even though he failed to document it, further alleging the burn could not be detected by him because direct heat does not raise the core body temperature. Prior to trial, John and Sean named the circulating nurse and her supervisor as responsible third parties so they would be considered by the jury in the liability questions. The jury assessed fault at 60% to the nurse who negligently placed the hose, 30% to the supervising nurse and 10% to the plastic surgeon; plaintiff assessed no liability to the anesthesiologist. With evidence of more than $1 million in damages, the anesthesiologist had only $200,000 in coverage, so efforts were made to enter a high/low settlement agreement while the jury deliberated. No agreement was reached before the jury returned its verdict.

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