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Products Liability Blog Post

San Diego Court Awards $7.5 Million in Punitive Damage for Medical Device That Caused Frostbite

A San Diego court recently awarded $7.5 million in punitive damages to a woman who suffered frostbite to her knee from use of a cold-therapy medical device. The lawsuit was based on product defects associated with the medical device and medical malpractice by the treating physician.

The product liability claim based on the defective medical device was initiated by a patient against San Diego Chargers’ physician Dr. David Chao, his medical practice and Breg, Inc., which manufactured the defective medical device. Dr. Chao prescribed the medical device Polar Care 500 to a number of patients over several years that suffered injuries.

Despite the adverse impact of the medical device, Dr. Chao treated 15-year-old Whitney Engler with the faulty cold-therapy device following knee surgery. He failed to disclose past problems and injuries associated with prior procedures using the Polar Care 500 medical device, as well as the fact that he would benefit from his patient’s purchase of the medical device.

Although Engler used the defective medical device as directed, her knee developed frostbite. She suffered serious permanent injury and disfigurement. In a lawsuit based on medical malpractice and product defect law, a jury originally awarded the woman $5.2 million in compensatory damages and assessed fifty percent liability to both Chao and Breg, Inc. The jury subsequently awarded Engler 7.5 million in punitive damage with $7 million in liability imposed on the medical product manufacturer and $500,000 in liability imposed on the doctor.

The law firm for the doctor tried unsuccessfully to shift the blame for Engler’s injuries to Breg, Inc. based on the product’s defects. The jury apparently rejected that theory based on the doctor’s first-hand experience with prior injuries caused by the defective cold-therapy device.

According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, Chao currently faces an action by the California Medical Board to revoke or suspend his license because of the Engler case and two other pending medical malpractice claims including:

  • Hip resurfacing procedure that caused substantial lacerations of blood vessels and nerve damage
  • Knee replacement surgery resulting in a pseudoaneurysm and blood clot

While there may be medical risks involved in any operation or other medical procedure, surgeons and other physicians have a legal obligation to advise patients about these risks so that they can give informed consent. If you or a love one suffers injury from a defective medical advice or medical malpractice, you may have a right to pursue financial compensation so call Thorsnes Bartolotta McGuire today at (619) 821-5648 or complete our case evaluation form.

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2550 Fifth Avenue, 11th Floor
San Diego, California, 92103-6612 USA