Jury awards $1.8 million in medical malpractice case

A New London jury awarded $1.8 million Tuesday to a woman who was sterilized when a doctor cut the wrong fallopian tube during a medical procedure.

Rebecca Simonds and her husband, Charles Simonds, then of Norwich, had brought the medical malpractice claim against Dr. Taylor Hotchkiss, who was 18 months out of her residency when she performed the procedure at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital in 2011. 

At the time, Hotchkiss was practicing at Shoreline OBGYN, which was one of the medical offices operated by Women's Health Connecticut Inc.

She is now affiliated with Mount Auburn OBGYN in Arlington, Mass.

Simonds, who was 28, went to the hospital on May 16, 2011, complaining of pelvic pain on the right side, according to the complaint.

She was admitted to the hospital, and doctors were unsure whether she was suffering from appendicitis or an infection, according to her attorney, Ralph J. Monaco of the Conway, Londregan, Sheehan & Monaco law firm of New London.

Monaco tried the case with his colleague, attorney Victoria S. Mueller.

On May 23, 2011, Simonds underwent an appendectomy, performed by another surgeon, and Hotchkiss came into the operation room and started performing surgery on an abscess of the right fallopian tube. 

Hotchkiss, who had never performed this type of surgery, realized something wasn't right and called in another physician, according to Monaco.

He said testimony at the trial was that Hotchkiss came out of the operating room in tears and that Simonds' husband and mother, who were in a waiting room, "thought they lost her."

"The doctor told them, 'She's OK, but we cut the wrong fallopian tube,'" Monaco said in a phone interview Wednesday. "She was rendered infertile as a result of this and had to go through an additional surgical procedure and is attempting to conceive through in-vitro fertilization, a process that has its risks and possible side-effects." 

The verdict includes $190,000 for medical expenses, $1.3 million for non-economic damages and $310,000 for Charles Simonds' loss of consortium.

Judge Timothy D. Bates had presided at the trial, which lasted two weeks. 

The jury deliberated about three hours before returning the verdict, according to Monaco.

Hotchkiss and the medical practice were represented by attorneys R. Cornelius Danaher Jr. and M. Karen Noble of the Danaher Lagnese law firm of Hartford.

They could not be reached for comment.

The defendants had denied liability while the case was pending and offered a settlement of just $100,000, according to Monaco.  

"They ended up admitting at the very end that the standard of care was violated," he said.

The defense had argued that Simonds would not likely be able to conceive due to the infection, but the plaintiff's attorneys were able to show that women who have such infections are able to get pregnant 85 percent or 90 percent of the time, Monaco said.

"I'm really happy for them," Monaco said of the Simondses. "They've been through a difficult time. You have to learn to trust a doctor again after something like this."

k.florin@theday.com

READER COMMENTS

Loading comments...
Hide Comments