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Bowel Perforation Malpractice Settlements

This page discussed bowel perforation lawsuits. Our lawyers look at the type of cases that make strong legal claims and flush out expected perforated bowel settlement amounts and jury awards.

A perforated bowel is a hole in the intestines. The bowel, made up of the small and large intestines, is the long, tubular part of the digestive system below the stomach where nutrients and water are absorbed into the bloodstream.

A bowel perforation is a medical emergency, and if it is not repaired, serious health problems can result. Our lawyers did deeper into this below, but most perforated bowel medical malpractice lawsuits involve malpractice in resolving the perforated bowel, not the nick or cut of the bowel that precipitated the malpractice.

On this page, our medical malpractice lawyers look at perforated bowel medical malpractice lawsuits, discussing which cases are the most viable medical negligence claims. We also discuss the settlement compensation victims receive in successful bowel perforation lawsuits.

If you suffered a perforated bowel and believe your injuries were caused by a medical mistake, call our medical malpractice attorneys at 800-553-8082 or get a free online consultation.

How Does a Perforated Bowel Happen?

Some examples of conditions that might cause bowel perforation are diverticulitis, ulcerative colitis, Chron’s disease, and appendicitis. If you have diverticulitis, for example, small “pouches” form on the intestine and push outward. Trauma to the intestine can also tear the intestines from a severe blow, gun or knife wound, or swallowed object.

More commonly, trauma to the intestine is accidentally inflicted during abdominal surgeries such as hysterectomies, appendectomies, and laparoscopies. A surgeon may nick or cut the bowel while performing surgery in the abdominal area. Additionally, a hole can be made when staples or stitches used to close the bowel come undone after surgery. Rarely, perforations occur during endoscopies and colonoscopies.

What Are the Effects of a Perforated Bowel?

Stomach pain, vomiting, chills, nausea, fever, abdominal pain, and trouble moving are signs of a perforated bowel. Having a hole in any organ is dangerous. A hole in the intestines allows its contents, including stool and bacteria, to enter the abdominal cavity.

The human digestive system is host to diverse gut microbiome-bacteria that aid digestion and overall health. However, when stool and bacteria leak into the abdomen, an infection called peritonitis may develop, which can lead to sepsis.

Sepsis is a medical emergency that causes organ failure and even death if left untreated. When the immune system responds to a nasty infection, the response can be too intense for the body to handle. Immune chemicals cause inflammation, blocking blood flow to one or more organs. Symptoms of sepsis include fever, chills, rapid breathing, and heart rate, signs of infection, pain, and mental decline.

How is a Perforated Bowel Diagnosed and Treated?

If any of the symptoms of perforated bowel are present, especially after abdominal surgery, a doctor should be seen immediately. X-rays showing air in the chest alert the doctor to the possibility of perforation, and CT scans confirm the perforation and pinpoint its location. Blood testing reveals signs of infection and blood loss.

Rarely a perforation can heal independently, but emergency surgery is usually required. The surgeon will fix the hole or holes in the bowel and remove anything leaking into the abdominal cavity. Antibiotics will probably be administered to treat a possible infection.

Sometimes, the surgeon will perform a colostomy or ileostomy, diverting the intestine’s contents into a bag through a hole in the abdomen. Those procedures promote healing and are reversed in a second surgery whenever possible.

The amount of time that the perforation was left open and a patient’s overall health can influence the success of surgery. However, timely surgery usually fixes the problem without significantly affecting a patient’s health.

If I Suffer a Bowel Perforation During a Medical Procedure, Is That Malpractice?

The defense in a bowel perforation medical malpractice or wrongful death case will argue that bowel perforation is an accepted risk in most abdominal surgeries. And they are often correct. Our medical malpractice lawyers aggressively take potential claims when we think someone has been unfairly harmed. Yet, our attorneys still reject most of these potential lawsuits.

This is because bowel perforation can occur even when a surgeon is careful and using the correct techniques. In medical malpractice cases, plaintiffs must show that a defendant violated the standard of care. In other words, the doctor did something that a reasonable doctor would not do that caused the injury.

So the perforation of the bowel itself is not malpractice unless a plaintiff can show, by consulting with experienced professionals, that the injury was inflicted as a direct cause of the surgeon’s negligence. They may argue, for example, that the surgeon used outdated techniques or accessed an area of the bowel that was not involved in the original plan.

Malpractice Dealing with the Perforation After the Fact

Even when managed appropriately, a bowel perforation can result in elevated morbidity and mortality due to complications that arise after repair, including the formation of adhesions and fistulas.

But most perforated bowel lawsuits do not take issue with the perforation itself.  Most malpractice allegations in these cases involve how the professionals respond after the perforation.

Quick Recognition of a Bowel Perforation Is Key

Depending on the circumstances, bowel perforation should either be recognized during surgery and corrected, or symptoms of a perforated bowel should be noticed and taken seriously after the surgery. Few perforated bowels heal on their own.  Timely diagnoses can prevent or limit hospital stays, the need for a colostomy or ileostomy bag, and death.  There is no set time of how long you can live with a perforated bowel without surgery.  But at some point, sepsis will kill you.

Some patients may show fewer outward symptoms than others. However, a bowel perforation can be detected from other observations by tracking bowel movements and gas patterns or by noticing abdominal distension, for example.

Again, the defense will likely argue that the signs and symptoms of bowel injury are not always apparent and can resemble other conditions, often leading to a failure to diagnose. However, qualified experts understand the standard of care in a given situation and can identify when medical negligence is responsible for an untreated bowel perforation.

Bowel Perforation Settlement Factors

What type of compensation can you expect for a bowel perforation settlement?  Let’s give you a lawyered-up answer: it really depends.

The settlement amounts, and jury awards for perforated bowel cases in medical malpractice lawsuits will vary wildly based on several factors. These are the key factors:

  1. Negligence:  Doctors perforate bowels without being negligent.  When you call a bowel perforation lawyer and tell them the doctor cut your bowel, they will look for something more. So the doctor has to have done something that a reasonable doctor would not.  That is the starting point in most bowel perforation cases because most claims are not viable.  You need a doctor’s mistake in some part of the process, or you do not have a case.
  2. Severity of Injury: The extent of harm caused by the perforated bowel is a significant factor. Serious complications, infections, and long-term health issues resulting from the perforation will lead to higher settlement compensation, all things being equal.
  3. Medical Expenses and Lost Wages: These “hard” economic costs are essential because juries often use these as a barometer for pain and suffering payouts.
  4. Pain and Suffering: Compensation for physical pain, emotional distress, and diminished quality of life resulting from the injury is the significant component of damages in almost every bowel perforation lawsuit, including wrongful death claims—the more severe the pain and suffering, the higher the potential compensation.
  5. Long-Term Effects: If the perforated bowel leads to chronic health problems, disabilities, or the need for ongoing medical treatment, you will see higher economic and non-economic damages.
  6. Geographical Location: Compensation amounts can also vary based on the jurisdiction in which the lawsuit is filed. States may have different legal standards, jury attitudes, and economic factors influencing the awards. Damage caps on pain and suffering can be a big deal in bowel perforation lawsuits, especially if the economic damages are limited.
  7. Your Lawyer: The best lawyers get the best results.

Bowel Perforation Settlement Amounts and Jury Payouts

Below are example settlement compensation payouts and jury awards in bowel perforation lawsuits.

Can these examples help you determine the likely compensation payout your case will receive if your case is successful? Yes and no. Reading other bowel perforation stories that led to lawsuits helps you better understand the types of cases that win and the compensation range. But one case – even one with seemingly identical facts – cannot predict the outcome of another.

Also keep in mind these are the winners.  Many of these lawsuits end in defense verdicts.

  • 2023, New Jersey $2,250,000 Settlement: A 54-year-old man had hernia repair surgery (so many defective hernia mesh lawsuits as a result, which is a whole different story). He returned to the hospital with complaints of pain, constipation, and a bloated abdomen. The surgeon evaluated him and attributed abnormalities shown in a CT scan to normal post-operative findings. But his condition worsened, leading to septic shock and hypoxia. He required additional surgeries and faced various health issues, including short bowel syndrome and PTSD.  His bowel perforation lawsuit alleged that had the possibility of perforation been identified during the initial emergency department visit following the surgery, timely antibiotic intervention could have averted the onset of septic shock and the subsequent need for multiple surgeries to halt necrosis and prevent organ failure.  A settlement amount was agreed to in mediation with a retired judge shortly before the trial date.
  • 2022, Washington $3,000,000 Settlement: The plaintiff, a 63-year-old male, was in the hospital when he became constipated. An enema was improperly and forcefully given, which perforated his lower bowel. The perforation was not immediately discovered, and an infection developed, eventually leading to sepsis. He eventually underwent four surgeries that left him without an anus, rectum, and colon and with a permanent colostomy, severe hernia, and lifelong complications.
  • 2021, New Mexico $500,000 Verdict: The plaintiff underwent a bowel resection surgery to treat his bowel diverticulitis. During that surgery, the defendant surgeon caused a bowel perforation that led to septic shock and acute renal failure a day after. The plaintiff was in a coma for eleven days, undergoing two additional surgeries to clean his abdominal cavity of fecal material and close the wound.
  • 2019, Pennsylvania: $1,000,000 Settlement: A 65-year-old woman undergoes surgery to reverse her colostomy and insert a pain management device. During surgery, the three defendant doctors caused a minor bowel defect. In the days following the operation, the woman exhibits signs of bowel perforation, which the defendants do not address apart from administering saline and continuing to monitor her. The woman is vomiting and has low blood pressure, abdominal distention, and a rapid heart rate. Three days after the surgery, she dies. In this case, the woman’s estate argued that the defendants were negligent in making the perforation, failing to notice it before completing the surgery, failing to respond to tests and symptoms of bowel perforation, delaying its diagnosis, and failing to repair the bowel timely.

  • 2019, New York: $500,000 Settlement: A 10-year-old boy, represented by his mother, has a bowel perforation after surgically removing a urachal cyst. They contend that the boy’s doctor was negligent in the techniques he used during the surgery. A secondary complaint was that the doctor did not receive the boy’s informed consent.

  • 2019, Idaho: $893,422 Verdict: A 49-year-old woman undergoes a complete hysterectomy. While operating, the surgeon notices a tear on her bowel and later says he repaired it. The woman is discharged the next day but returns to the hospital for emergency surgery within three days because she has become septic. Surgeons discover a bowel perforation that has been leaking, causing septic shock. The defendant surgeon never informed his patient about the perforation he found and supposedly repaired during the initial surgery. During the trial, the woman passes away. General damages account for most of the verdict, with the remaining accounting for medical costs.

  • 2019, New York: $13,000,000 Verdict: An adult woman dies from post-operative septic shock. She goes into sepsis after her bowel is perforated during a diagnostic laparoscopy and partial colon resection. According to her estate, doctors failed to provide her with informed consent about the surgery and delayed the diagnosis of her condition. A mother survived by her husband and two children, $2,250,000 is awarded for compensatory pain and suffering and $10,750,000 for loss of services.

  • 2018 New York: $1,000,000 Settlement: A 28-year-old woman with a history of cervical cancer develops radiation colitis, inflammation caused by radiation therapy, and is treated with antibiotics. About a month later, she returns to the hospital, where a small bowel obstruction is found. She requires an exploratory laparotomy surgery, during which surgeons suture her colon. After the surgery, the woman feels a pop, followed by pain in her abdomen. She has experienced a perforation where the suture was made, which results in septic shock.  Septic show is extremely serious – it can kill you.  She had a one-month hospital stay and needed an ileostomy bag for the next five years. The plaintiff argues that the doctors who performed the exploratory laparotomy should have done a bowel diversion, either a colostomy or ileostomy, to prevent the perforation and its consequences.
  • 2018, Pennsylvania: $345,000 Settlement: An 81-year-old woman is diagnosed with a ventral hernia. She shows signs of infection in the first procedure to repair the hernia. She goes back to surgery two days later. Sadly, she passes. According to the defense, the patient’s death resulted from her long medical history and not their negligence. The family’s malpractice lawyers, aided by an expert in minimally invasive surgery, argued that the defendants were negligent for several reasons, including the perforation of her bowel. The doctor performed lysis of adhesions and surgical cutting of bands of tissue that form between organs unnecessarily, increasing the risk of bowel perforation. The doctor did not have the decedent’s consent to perform lysis of adhesions beyond the repair of the hernia.
  • 2018, New Jersey: $1,850,000 Settlement: In this case, a 59-year-old woman is left with short gut syndrome, affecting her quality of life, after her bowel is perforated during oophorectomy, or ovary removal, surgery. When accused of not checking the bowel for perforations before completing the surgery, the surgeon proves using the operative report that he was checking during the surgery. However, there is no record of him performing a final check for bowel perforations before finishing the surgery. The woman has a high risk of bowel perforation due to a history of bowel resection and diverticulitis. After the surgery, she cannot be discharged immediately because she has a very high heart rate, hypoxia, and abdominal pain. Despite her predisposition for bowel perforation and her post-operative symptoms, a CT scan is not performed to check for perforations.

Contact Miller & Zois About Perforated Bowel Malpractice

You may be entitled to financial compensation if a perforated bowel has injured you or a family member due to negligent medical care. Call our medical malpractice attorneys today at 800-553-5053 or contact us online.


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