Jury Awards $20.5 million in Liposuction Lawsuit

On Friday a Philadelphia jury awarded $20.5 million to the family of an 18 year old who died following liposuction surgery. According to 6abc.com,

The liposuction was done on the teen’s chin, abdomen and flanks. The family’s civil suit charged that a blood vessel in Amy Fledderman’s neck was severed during surgery, and that the plastic surgeon realized too late she was in trouble.

The doctor’s office was not licensed by the state Department of Health, and his liposuction privileges at Main Line Health Hospitals had been restricted, the plaintiffs said.

The plastic surgeon, in court filings, said that Fledderman had a difficult time emerging from anesthesia. The nurse anesthetist said she died after developing a rare fat embolism.

I don’t know any more about the details of this sad event from seven years ago. $20.5 million is an enormous amount of money. If the surgeon maxed out his malpractice insurance policy it will cover the first $1 million of it, leaving the remaining $19.5 million to come from everything else he (or the nurse) owns or will ever own (depending on state and national laws).

Was the doctor horribly negligent in caring for this young woman? I don’t know. Was this just a freak event that could not have been prevented except for not performing the surgery? I don’t know. If we are to have faith in the American courts, we must assume that the former is true, otherwise the doctor and nurse have had their lives destroyed for no fault of their own.

What I do know is that nothing will ever bring that 18 year old girl back, but massive awards like this can never be paid off during any doctor’s lifetime. This is a tragic case for all involved.

What do you think about awards like this? I am interested in what my readers think about these multimillion dollar judgements against hospitals, doctors, and nurses. As a physician, I have my own beliefs, partly because the spectre of a lawsuit always hangs over the head of every doctor, no matter how hard he or she works to give his or her patients the absolute best and safest care. Some of the finest doctors I know, however, have been sued, many more than once.

Thanks for reading.

Michigan-based Plastic Surgeon

Anthony Youn, M.D.

Tagged with:

Posted in: Plastic Surgery News


  1. The linked article stated that prosecutors declined to file criminal charges after an investigation.

    Why were criminal charges even considered? Although the article included information about licensing, I’m not sure what they mean by:

    Glunk’s office was not licensed by the state Department of Health, and his liposuction privileges at Main Line Health Hospitals had been restricted, the plaintiffs said.

    Does that mean that the actual doctor was not licensed for that state, or not licensed to perform plastic surgery? Or maybe it means that his office wasn’t licensed to perform plastic surgery.

    And why were his liposuction privileges suspended at the hospital?

    I’m left to guess that he made some mistakes with liposuction surgeries while at the hospital, so they restricted his privileges, then he performed the young lady’s lipo at his office, which wasn’t licensed for plastic surgery.

    If my guess is close, then I can see why that lawsuit reward would be higher than most malpractice lawsuits, where doctors in good standing made a mistake.

    And why would a nurse anesthetist be even partially responsible? Maybe if the surgery was an illegal surgery, he should have refused to assist, which would have prevented the young lady’s death. Too bad the article didn’t report enough information.

    Comment by shreela on May 25, 2008 at 4:35 pm

  2. Won’t the award most likely be reduced at some point? That seems to be what often happens in these cases.

    Comment by twitches on May 25, 2008 at 5:35 pm

  3. I think that it just shows how very important it is to make sure that you are using a well qualified surgeon and a clinic with a good reputation. I cannot understand why the family sued – perhaps enough to cover the funeral expenses makes sense but money will never replace a child, I think it is very odd that they were awarded so much money.

    Comment by PureAgeless on May 26, 2008 at 3:41 am

  4. just the thought of mal-practice sickens me. i think there should be a cap in all states. i do realize that sometimes it IS the docs fault. but sometimes, things just happen. my husband is an ob/gyn and i hate that he could be sued at any minute.

    Comment by Anonymous on May 26, 2008 at 8:57 am

  5. I’m certainly not a Doctorof any sorts . But I do believe the statment about their lives being ruined for no fault of their own is a little over the top. She was alive before the surgery and then not after. It is the Doctors fault. HOWEVER, after already myself having plastic surgery. I also feel that it is her parents fault. Seems as though this doctor had some known faults already in his practice, they should have been better looking into these details. I live in canada, even on line you can find the appropriate associations to help inform you on the best doctor for you. And your life!

    I also seriously disagree with allowing an 18 yr old of any size to get lipo. At 18 I wanted breasts like Pamela Anderson, extreme yes. But who knows by the time this young lady was 23 maybe she would have been alright with her under chin and neck.

    this makes me sick.

    -23 breast implants w/ benelli lift!
    Who am I to talk, I know!

    P.S Dr. Youn, I am from windsor originally. When you were on Dr. 90210, it was huge for some of us, whom have mothers sporting your enhancements!

    Comment by Anonymous on May 26, 2008 at 9:35 am

  6. it sounds like the jury wanted to put him out of business based on the information they were given.
    sometimes jurys can do things that the government is unable to do, like stopping a bad doctor from practicing. it is hard to judge without more details from the trial.

    Comment by Anonymous on May 26, 2008 at 6:43 pm

  7. I think the European system makes more sense. There the plaintiffs lawyers don’t get anything if they lose the case so they are not motivated to take any case that is dubious at all. Also, the burden of proving malpractice is higher and awards are lower.

    Comment by Anonymous on May 27, 2008 at 12:26 am

  8. I think 20 million is a little outrageous…she decided to have the surgery, it was ‘elective’ surgery.

    Comment by Kelly on May 27, 2008 at 2:43 pm

  9. I do not believe in limiting malpractice awards. We do not know the details of this case but it does not affect my above statement.

    Comment by Anonymous on May 27, 2008 at 5:37 pm

  10. If I had asked for elective plastic surgery when I was 18, my parents would have laughed me back to Reality World.

    An award in an amount that can’t realistically be paid is egregious.

    Comment by silverin on May 27, 2008 at 7:35 pm

  11. The judge in this case probably has the discretion to vacate this award and force the parties to negotiate a more equitable settlement.

    Malpractice is a blunt instrument, and highlights the weaknesses of our medical system. If a malpractice victim is alive but disabled, he or she must obtain enough money for medical care and living expenses for the rest of his or her life, AND to pay the 30%-40% contingency fee to the lawyer.
    European countries can cap punitive damages because the state pays for medical care and living expenses.

    Comment by Witch Hazel on May 28, 2008 at 1:55 am

  12. I am a physician, so biased, of course, but I want to comment on my recent experience being called for jury duty. I was in the pool of potential jurors for a civil case where a man had been rear ended. He was represented by the law firm in our town that advertises heavily on TV and radio and represents the “victims” of accidents, medical malpractice, etc.

    Questions in juror selection included, “Do you listen to talk radio? What kind? Does anyone listen to Rush Limbaugh? Does anyone think athletes are overpaid? We are having a chiropractor testify against an orthopedic surgeon – does anyone think one is better than the other?”

    It was clear they were attempting to seat a jury that was “liberal,” sympathetic to the victim, and frankly, uneducated. It was eye opening. I would never want to be a defendent in a medical malpractice trial by jury, no matter how frivolous the suit, because the jury is out to get the “rich doctors” and is too easily swayed by rhetoric. Yes, some people are guilty of malpractice. And many many more are not.

    Of course I was not selected to serve on the jury, nor were the nurses in the jury pool, or the engineer, or the successful businessman who owned multiple stores, etc.

    Comment by Connie on May 28, 2008 at 1:16 pm

  13. dr youn, i heard this story on npr a while ago about doctor and hospital apologies for mistakes made helps curb malpractic suits.

    what do you think?


    Comment by Anonymous on May 28, 2008 at 4:13 pm

  14. Here’s what I don’t understand in the first place–what is an 18-year-old doing having liposuction all over her body in the first place? Why would the surgeon do it and why would her parents let her?

    Sometimes bad things happen. It sounds like this guy might have been a quack and should be sued for millions. However, sometimes bad things will happen no matter what. Sometimes doctors have to make decisions over how many tests to do to diagnose a problem. Some of those tests have their own risks, so medical judgment ALWAYS is necessary. Medical judgment is exercised by humans and is NEVER going to be perfect.

    Comment by Anonymous on May 30, 2008 at 11:27 pm

  15. Who has surgery at 18? I did, by an extremely well known surgeon here in Honolulu. In fact, I had multiple surgeries (all at once). It wasn’t my idea, it was my mom’s. Cut to over 20 years later, and I can honestly say that at least half those procedures had to be “undone” with further surgeries. My point is, I do think 18 is often too young…with the exception of maybe nose jobs or other things in extreme cases.

    Comment by Anonymous on June 11, 2008 at 4:58 am

  16. Personally, I think going into even the most routine surgery every patient should know that something could happen. I think $20million is exorbitant in most cases but especially this. No amount of money is going to bring her back, and it is not like a sole provider for a family has been harmed to where they can no longer support their family. If it is the Dr.’s fault should they get some sort of compensation? Maybe. $20 mil? No.

    Comment by courtney on June 14, 2008 at 5:28 pm

  17. i’m a doctor’s wife and i know how compassionate my husband is.however, lawsuits demoralize doctors.in my opinion, doctos should unite and lobby against malpractice legislations. they are RIDICULOUS!——ROMI

    Comment by Anonymous on June 29, 2008 at 10:39 pm

Leave a response