March 5, 1999
In the single largest medical judgement in Connecticut history to date, a jury awarded William (Billy) Jacobs of Wappingers Falls, NY, $27 million after finding Yale University and Yale-New Haven Hospital guilty of malpractice.
Surgeons botched the man's November 1986 heart operation, leaving him blind, unable to speak, without control of his arms and legs, and cognitively impaired.
The family's attorney, Michael Koskoff, charged that surgeons performed unnecessary and negligent surgery on then-17-year-old Billy. Billy had been involved in a car accident, but was recovering nicely from the injuries he had sustained. However, after being plagued by recurring fevers, he was taken to Yale-New Haven.
There, doctors misdiagnosed the cause of the fevers as a torn aorta and performed surgery. That diagnosis was inaccurate, Koskoff told the jury, and surgery was not necessary. He introduced evidence showing the condition was "at most, a little tear or indentation in the inner lining of the aorta" and explained that medical experts recommended surgery only if the tear had gone beyond two linings.
During the procedures a resident physician, Dr. Paul Massimiano, mistakenly punctured Billy's aorta while using two improperly placed surgical clamps.