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
“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