Pakistani American surgeon Pervaiz Chaudhry of Fresno, California will have to pay a total of $68 million to the family of a man who was left in a coma following a heart operation six years ago that ended badly at Community Regional Medical Center, according to the Fresno Bee.
On Tuesday, March 20, a jury ordered Chaudhry to pay $12.39 million in punitive damages after he was already order to pay $55.6 million the day before at Fresno Superior Court.
According to the Fresno Bee, in April 2012, Chaudhry, 57, had left the operating room while Silvino Perez’s chest remained opened and ordered his physician assistant, Bella Albakova who happened to be his girlfriend at the time, to close the patients’ chest after which he attended a business luncheon in northeast Fresno.
“Perez lost so much blood that his brain was starved of oxygen, causing him to go into a coma, the jury found Chaudhry’s leaving to be malicious, oppressive or fraudulent,” the Fresno Bee reported.
The Fresno Bee reported that Chaudhry was absent during most of his civil trial and was not present during Monday’s verdict, lawyers said that he is in Pakistan with family.
The jury did award Perez $25 million for any past and future pain however, Perez, now 76, remains in a vegetative state and can still feel the pain, one of his lawyers told the Fresno Bee.
Perez’s wife Maria who suffers from symptoms of dementia, was also awarded $25 million for her pain, suffering and loss of love and support since he was her primary caretaker.
Chaudhry will have to pay an additional $5.6 million in medical bills to the Perez family.
During the trial, Chaudhry’s lawyers described him as a “brilliant, hard-working surgeon who did high-risk surgeries to save lives” and that he was not at fault as “Perez suffered an ‘extremely rare complication during surgery.’”
According to Chaudhry’s testimony, Perez was not his initial patient and he said he did the surgery to help out another heart surgeon.
Chaudhry also testified that he “did not leave the operating room until Perez was in stable condition but Albakova and other medical staff in the operating room said he left Albakova in charge of closing the chest.”
From April 2010 to March 2012, Chaudhry performed 749 surgeries and during many of them, would leave the operating room and order Albakova to close the patient’s chest, according to the Fresno Bee report.
He would then leave the hospital “to attend a business meeting so he could shake someone’s hand” and on the day of Perez’s surgery, he was notified of his excessive bleeding twice, yet continued to drive to the meeting.
Hospital rules require Chaudhry to find another heart surgeon with compatible skills if he has to leave early as “surgeons must remain at the hospital until the patient is stable in the recovery room.”
According to the Fresno Bee report, Chaudhry’s former associate and the director of surgical services at Fresno Heart and Surgical Hospital, both testified in court saying that they were aware of his behavior and had told him several times to not let Albakova close the patients’ chest as it is “a critical part of the surgery,” however he would always yell back at them and say “you guys are idiots.”
“Chaudhry was cocky and thought of himself as a ‘kingpin’ at CRMC, Echeverria said, because he brought a lot of buisness to the hospital, which paid him handsomely. His plan was to ‘control the market’ and put his competition out of business,” one of Perez’s lawyers told the Fresno Bee.
Perez has been disabled since the surgery.