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Blizzard v. Lundeby

Supreme Court of Idaho

March 27, 2014

JANICE BLIZZARD, individually and as parent and legal guardian of COLTON BLIZZARD, a minor child; and TINA M. SARRO, Special Administrator of the ESTATE OF RICHARD MAX BLIZZARD, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
JOHN PAUL LUNDEBY, M.D. and JANE DOE LUNDEBY, husband and wife and the marital community thereof, and LAKE CITY SURGEONS, PLLC, an Idaho limited liability company, Defendants-Respondents

2014 Opinion No. 38

Appeal from the District Court of the First Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Kootenai County. Hon. Charles W. Hosack, District Judge.

Winston & Cashett Lawyers, PS, Coeur d'Alene, attorneys for Appellant. Michael T. Howard argued.

Ramsden & Lyons LLP, Coeur d'Alene, attorneys for Respondents. Terrance R. Harris argued.

W. JONES, Justice. Chief Justice BURDICK, Justices EISMANN, J. JONES and HORTON CONCUR.

OPINION

Page 287

[156 Idaho 205] W. JONES, Justice.

I. Nature of the Case

This is an appeal from a district court order denying Plaintiff's Rule 59(a)(6) Motion for a New Trial in a medical malpractice lawsuit where the jury found that Defendant, Dr. Lundeby (" Dr. Lundeby" ), did not breach the standard of care owed to his patient, Rick Blizzard (" Blizzard" ). The district court, although finding the jury's verdict was against the clear weight of evidence, denied a motion for a new trial because it could not say the ultimate outcome would be different if a new trial were granted.

II. Factual and Procedural Background

On January 5, 2008, Rick Blizzard went to Kootenai Medical Center for lower abdominal pain. At the time, Dr. Lundeby was on-call as the general surgeon. Dr. Lundeby performed an exploratory surgery after an endoscopy revealed that Blizzard had a severely obstructed and distended bowel. During the exploratory surgery, Dr. Lundeby removed a portion of Blizzard's colon and created a temporary colostomy.

On June 4, 2008, Dr. Lundeby performed a colostomy reversal, by which Blizzard's colon was intended to be reattached to his rectum via a circular stapler. This procedure was to create a colorectal anastomosis. The day after Blizzard's discharge on June 11, 2009, Blizzard complained of air and fecal material in his urine. On June 13, 2008, Dr. Lundeby performed a second exploratory surgery where he discovered that Blizzard's bladder had been stapled wrongly " through and through" into the anastomosis, creating a fistula--a passageway between two organs that normally do not connect--which was depositing fecal material into his bladder. Over the course of the next two years, Blizzard underwent eight surgical attempts by specialists to repair his bladder and bowel. Blizzard had no insurance and consequently incurred $852,213 in medical expenses.

On April 13, 2010, Blizzard filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against Dr. Lundeby and Lake City Surgeons. After expending his savings and retirement, incurring a second mortgage on his home, and enduring frustrations with his condition, Blizzard took his life on July 15, 2010. Blizzard's wife, Janice Blizzard, his son, Colton Blizzard, and his sister, Tina Sarro as Special Administrator, filed an Amended Complaint.[1] The Amended Complaint continued the suit for lost wages and medical expenses under Idaho's survival statute and added a claim for wrongful death.

At a jury trial, as to the relevant standard of care, Plaintiffs offered the expert testimony of Dr. Harris who testified that a reasonable surgeon would have taken additional steps to isolate the anastomosis, sought assistance from another surgeon, or aborted the procedure. Essentially, Dr. Harris testified that the standard of care was for Dr. Lundeby to know what he was stapling before he stapled anything. On the issue of standard of care, Dr. Lundeby offered the testimony of Dr. Liu who testified that the surgery was within the ...


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