CHICAGO – The widow and two adult children of a patient who died of cardiac complications hours after spinal surgery were recently awarded a $7.75 million verdict by the Cook County Circuit Court in their lawsuit against the doctor who performed the spinal surgery.

In the suit filed by LaDonna Munden and her two children Marla Munden and Jonathan Munden on behalf of their father, Jon Munden, the jury reached the verdict against Wesley Y. Yapor, a neurosurgeon at Resurrection Hospital in Chicago on June 1. Resurrection settled as a defendant for $2 million before the case went to trial. 


Sara Charles, a professor of psychiatry emerita at the University of Illinois at Chicago and a member of the advisory group for the Physician Litigation Stress Resource Group, said, based on her knowledge of previous cases, medical malpractice verdicts can take an emotional toll on the doctor, his or her family members, and patients, but that impact often depends on the physician and how long the malpractice claim has been pending.


“(A verdict is often viewed as) a direct assault on their sense of integrity and sense of self as a physician,” Charles told the Cook County Record.


Jon Munden had a history of diabetes, hypertension, obesity, coronary artery disease and sleep apnea. He also had five stents placed as a result of his coronary artery disease.


In November 2008, Yapor recommended a cervical disc replacement to address Munden’s recurring neck and back pain, court documents said. In the lawsuit, Munden’s widow and children alleged that Yapor did not order Jon Munden to get pre-operative clearance from a cardiologist or his primary care physician, despite his extensive history with cardiac artery disease.


Jon Munden developed a ventricular arrhythmia four hours after the spinal surgery. This arrhythmia ultimately caused his heart to fail and resulted in his death, according to a press releases from Clifford Law Offices, which represented Munden's family. 


“The doctor violated the reasonable standard of care,” Clifford Law partner Keith A. Hebeisen said in a statement. “This husband and father of two should still be here.” 


Charles said a malpractice verdict will usually be reported to the National Practitioners Data Bank, although any actions taken by affiliated hospitals vary.

“It certainly is on his record,” Charles said.


In addition, Charles said there is a difference between a legal malpractice finding and a medical one.


“The law may look at this a little different than the medical people do,” Charles said.


Charles said malpractice verdict appeals usually ask courts to either dismiss the verdict entirely or diminish the amount awarded. She said the amount of the physician’s malpractice insurance coverage could play a role in this decision.


“When you get a judgment like this, often times it’s not really over,” Charles said.


Yapor’s defense attorneys, Kevin J. Glenn and Laura Wetterer of Foran Glennon Palandech Ponzi & Rudloff PC, did not return repeated requests for comments.


Other defendants at trial included anesthesiologist Madison Sample and Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist Jason Moore, who were also alleged to be negligent in the failure to obtain cardiac clearance before Jon Munden’s spinal surgery. In addition, cardiologist Vijay H. Vohra was alleged to have failed to report significant abnormalities on a pre-operative electrocardiogram. All of these defendants were found not liable for Jon Munden’s death by the jury.

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Clifford Law Foran Glennon Palandech Ponzi & Rudloff PC

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