Trial in the matter of Lowe v. Hill, C/N 160400034, a medical malpractice case in Fourth Judicial District Court for Utah County, begins on Tuesday, January 8, in Judge James Brady’s courtroom in Provo.
This case arises out of damage to plaintiff’s left ureter during a partial colon resection done for recurrent diverticular disease.
Richard Lowe (a former manager at Geneva Steel and more recently a custodian for the Nebo School District), suffered for years from diverticulitis. This is a condition of the colon where tiny pockets (diverticula) form in the lining of the bowel; when they become infected or inflamed diverticulitis is the result. Treatment starts conservatively, with antibiotics, but can progress (as in Mr. Lowe’s case) to resection surgery.
In March 2014, Mr. Lowe had another bout of diverticulitis treated with a ten-day course of antibiotics by
Dr. Bruce Hill, a Provo general surgeon. By this point, surgery was deemed necessary and a left partial colectomy was performed by Dr. Hill. However, unknown to anyone at the time, Mr. Lowe’s left ureter was damaged (either cut or torn), and he was discharged with urine leaking into his abdominal cavity.
The rent in the ureter was finally identified and repaired some three weeks later. Then there was another week of hospitalization complicated by infection and pulmonary embolism. In addition, shortly after the repair surgery, Mr. Lowe began suffering panic attacks by what he felt was a near-death experience, for which he has sought psychological treatment.
Plaintiff claims that the colectomy surgery should not have been performed by Dr. Hill until a sufficient course of antibiotics (up to six weeks) had reduced the inflammation in the colon. (This, he claims, would have prevented the damage to the ureter, as inflammation obscured the surgical field.) Second, that Dr. Hill breached the standard of care by failing to identify and protect the left ureter during surgery, and then cutting or otherwise damaging it because it had not been identified. These claims are all disputed by Dr. Hill, whose surgical expert notes that ureter damage is a known, but small, risk of what was a necessary surgery.
Special damages claimed are about $110,000; the medical malpractice cap on non-economic damages is $450,000.
Plaintiff’s experts: Dr. Joshua Ellenhorn (general surgery, Los Angeles); Kirk Thorne, PhD. (psychologist, Draper.)