Posted on Feb 12, 2006
Judge upholds verdict in medical malpractice case
He also deducts $500,000 from the original $1.5M awarded to family of man who died after surgery
Thursday, February 09, 2006
By FRANK DONNELLY
ADVANCE STAFF WRITER
A Staten Island judge has upheld a jury verdict in a medical malpractice case, but sliced $500,000 off the $1.5 million awarded to the family of a Meiers Corners man, calling the compensation "excessive, unreasonable and out of harmony with the proof."
In November, a jury in the Stapleton home port annex of state Supreme Court found Dr. Joph Steckel of Long Island liable in the death of Barry Brenowitz.
Brenowitz, 62, died in January 2001 of complications of bladder-removal surgery performed by Dr. Steckel in North Shore University Hospital, Manhasset, L.I., in September 2000.
The plaintiffs charged that Dr. Steckel departed from accepted medical standards by removing Brenowitz's bladder without first performing a follow-up biopsy. In June 2000, Brenowitz had undergone an extensive procedure performed by another physician to try to remove bladder tumors.
Dr. Steckel said the bladder should be removed because there was a high risk the tumors would grow back. As it turned out, the tumors were excised in the earlier procedure, the plaintiff's lawyer, Pasquale V. Vairo of Manhattan, previously told the Advance.
State Supreme Court Justice Eric N. Vitaliano, recently appointed a federal judge, shot down Dr. Steckel's motion to set aside the verdict. He said the jury's decision had not gone against "the weight of the credible evidence."
However, the judge noted that Vairo, in his summation, had demanded $1 million in damages. The jury's "50-percent run-up" of $1.5 million for the victim's conscious pain and suffering is a "material deviation from reasonable compensation," the judge said. He knocked off $500,000, lowering the award to $1 million.
Neither Vairo nor defense counsel Kevin M. Ryan of Manhattan immediately returned telephone messages left yesterday seeking comment.
Frank Donnelly is a news reporter for the Advance.