Kramer Dillof Livingston & Moore Wins $13 Million for Family After Mother's Wrongful Death

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Doctor was too quick to operate, then missed vital mistake, according to court documents.

Surgeon’s Rush to Operate Killed Woman

A Manhattan jury took less than 24 hours to decide that a doctor’s rush to operate on a 43-year-old woman – for a benign polyp in her colon – caused a series of cascading events that led to her death. Dr. Christian Hirsch, a colorectal surgeon, was found liable in the death of Cheryl Raefski, a wife and mother of two daughters and a son, who were 6 and 10 years old at the time of the surgery back in 2011.

The jury of four men and two women heard evidence for more than three-and-a-half weeks, but took less than a day to return a verdict of $13 million.

Mrs. Raeski – a homemaker and volunteer soccer and cheerleading coach – was referred to Dr. Hirsch by her local New Jersey doctor, according to testimony during trial. That doctor had removed most of the polyp, and believed that his patient would benefit from the experience and facilities of the NYU-based Dr. Hirsch. Ms. Raeski followed her doctor’s advice and went to see Dr. Hirsch. Dr. Hirsch then misdiagnosed his new patient, and rushed her into surgery to remove the remaining remnant of the polyp, according to court documents.

Once on the operating table, the situation went from bad to worse. After he began the procedure, Dr. Hirsch couldn’t locate the remnant, and converted to full open surgery, according to court documents. The jury found Dr. Hirsch responsible for "negligently" burning part of Mrs. Raeski’s small bowel, and then not noticing his mistake, and reflected these findings on the court's verdict sheet.

According to court documents, for four days, Mrs. Raeski’s condition worsened, and Dr. Hirsch didn’t order a CT-scan. When he finally did, Mrs. Raeski was suffering from sepsis, and died six days later.

The jury awarded Mrs. Raeski $2,250,000 for the horrific pain and suffering she endured for those last 10 days. The jury also made a wrongful death award to the family: $1,750,000 to Mrs. Raeski’s husband, a New Jersey police officer; and $3 million to each of the children for the loss of guidance from the mother.

The family was represented by Judith Livingston, a senior partner at Kramer, Dillof, Livingston, and Moore. “This is not only an incredibly sad situation,” said Ms. Livingston, a trial attorney whose 35 million-dollar jury verdicts is more than any female attorney in America, “but completely avoidable. If the surgeon had not been so eager to get this poor woman under the knife – if he had just followed the recommended protocol and performed a non-invasive colonoscopy – this mother would be here today to watch her wonderful children grow up to be responsible, caring young adults.”

Justice Joan Madden of Supreme Court presided over the case in Supreme Court, New York County. It was index number 805440/2013.

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