James Law v. Charles Gross, M.D.
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Circuit Court for the City of Charlottesville
Jury Verdict: $750,000.00
In January 1998, James "Mark" Law, age 14, was referred for sinus surgery by his pediatrician to the defendant doctor, a nationally known pediatric ear, nose and throat surgeon on staff at University of Virginia Hospital. Having been told by Mark's referring physician that the defendant was "the best," Mark's mother consented to the defendant performing the surgery. However, unknown to either Mark or his mother, Dr. Gross did not perform the surgery and was, in fact, not even in the room during most of the surgery. Instead, two residents performed the surgery. Complications occurred during the surgery, and, as a result, Mark was blinded in one eye.
The case was tried exclusively on the issue of consent. The defendant admitted that he never told Mark or his mother that he would not operate or remain in the operating room during surgery. Instead, he claimed that substituting surgeons in a teaching institution was not a violation of the standard of care and that Mark's mother should have known that such a substitution would occur because Mark had received treatment at the University of Virginia on prior occasions.
The plaintiff argued that a mother has a right to know who is operating on her son. The jury deliberated for three hours and returned a verdict of $750,000. This verdict is believed to be one of the largest medical malpractice verdicts to date in the Circuit Court for the City of Charlottesville.