Posted on Feb 17, 2006
Jury awards $2.5M in malpractice case
By Amy L. Ashbridge
A state Supreme Court jury in Cooperstown has handed down a $2.5 million malpractice verdict against a Sidney physician.
The six-person jury decided Wednesday that Dr. Khalid Parwez, an obstetrician and gynecologist, was negligent in his care of now-36-year-old Wendy Harris during a minimally invasive surgical procedure in November 1998.
"When they read the first part (of the verdict), I just bawled," Harris said Thursday. "I was so happy. The guilty verdict means so much to me."
Harris said she went in for a gynecological laparoscopic procedure at The Hospital in Sidney on Nov. 23, 1998, and Parwez laAdvertisement
cerated her aorta, vena cava and several other major arteries and veins — and then ignored the injuries.
"Basically, he left me there to bleed to death," Harris said.
Harris was subsequently hospitalized again at The Hospital and transferred to Wilson Regional Medical Center in Johnson City.
As a result of the surgery and delay in further treatment, Harris said, she developed blood clots and has pain in her legs.
Harris developed deep-vein thrombosis in her left leg, she said, and must wear a specialized pump about 10 hours a week to have prWhat's Related
oper blood flow through the area.
Parwez, who is in his 50s, received his medical license in September 1976, according to his physician profile on the state Department of Health’s website. He graduated in 1971 from Nishtar Medical College in Multan, Pakistan, the profile said.
A receptionist in Parwez’s Sidney office said he was not in the office Thursday. A representative at Wilson Regional, where Parwez has admitting and operating privileges, was not available for comment.
Parwez and his attorney, John Maloney of Albany, had made a settlement offer of $250,000, but Harris and her attorney, Joseph Cote of Syracuse, rejected that offer.
Harris also wanted an apology, she said.
"(Parwez) didn’t believe he was negligent," Maloney said Thursday. "A jury had previously found he was not negligent."
"Obviously, we’re disappointed that the jury didn’t see it this time the way the jury saw it the last time," Maloney said.
A jury had ruled in favor of Parwez in June 2003, but the judge overturned that verdict. Parwez’s attorney appealed the decision, and an appellate court found in favor of Harris in 2004.
That decision granted Harris the right to a new trial.
Although Parwez doesn’t think he was negligent, Maloney said, the settlement offer doesn’t imply otherwise.
This was a situation in which a patient had received an injury during treatment and surgery, he said. The injury, Maloney said, was a risk and complication of the procedure.
"It’s not uncommon that an offer of compromise and settlement will be made. There are two sides to everything," he said. "It’s not an admission of responsibility."
Maloney said they would be considering an appeal of the decision.
"We’ve asked for 30 days to make motions," he said. "Those motions are addressing the size of the verdict."
Maloney said he didn’t know what the timeline would be for the appeal.
"I have no doubt in my mind we will win the appeal," Harris said. She said she was shocked by the size of Wednesday’s verdict, but that wasn’t the point of going to trial.
"The money wasn’t the big thing," Harris said. "I thought what he did to me was horrible."
Harris said she also has filed a complaint against Parwez with the state Office of Professional Medical Conduct. That office handles physician discipline.
"I want people to know he’s done something horribly wrong," Harris said. "It wasn’t like he made some little mistake. It was huge.
"I am very, very mad that he’s still practicing," she said.
A spokesman for the state Department of Health said it was a violation of public-health law to discuss ongoing investigations and could not confirm that an investigation was taking place regarding Parwez.
This was not the first time that Harris had had the procedure, she said. She also had one performed in 1991 at A.O. Fox Memorial Hospital in Oneonta.
"I’d done it before," Harris said. "I was in and out. It was no big deal."
Parwez recommended the procedure in 1998 because Harris had been having severe menstrual pain and spotting between her periods, she said.
"Doctors make you believe it’s as safe as going to the dentist. I had no idea," Harris said. After the procedure was over, Harris said, she knew something was different.
"I knew when I woke up and it was 12 o’clock, that something had gone wrong," she said. "A code blue was called."
Harris had lost a large part of her blood volume during the surgery, Cote said.
Harris has been able to work, despite the pain. She is a project leader at MeadWestvaco in Sidney.
"I chose to work voluntarily. Not working was not going to change (the pain)," Harris said. "I had to make a choice to go on with my life."
Jury member Heather Roberts of Fly Creek said the trial affected even the jurors.
"It made us physically ill," Roberts said Thursday. "It was his disregard for human life."
Roberts said there was some discussion about how much the monetary amount should be, but the jurors eventually came to an agreement.
Finding Parwez guilty of medical malpractice was easier, Roberts said.
"The evidence was really clear. It was what the evidence led us to," she said.
Harris was there every day of the trial, Roberts said, which lasted for about a week and a half.
"It was hard to see her have to sit and go through it again," Roberts said.
"(Harris) struggled for eight years to get her day in court," Cote said. "After eight years of struggling, she finally got to have her case heard.
"I think it is justice at long last for a victim who waited too long," he added.
Cote worked with Binghamton lawyer Stephen Cornwell Jr. during the trial.
Cote said The Hospital, which was owned by the town of Sidney, had initially been named in a suit, but there had been a limited time to sue a municipality. The main issue, Cote said, was with Parwez and not the facility.
"The negligence was that of Dr. Parwez," Cote said. "He drove a sharp instrument into her, which caused her serious injury. Then he walked away from the patient and stood in the corner."
Harris said between $30,000 and $40,000 of the verdict will be used to cover attorney expenses.
Cote and his staff will probably receive about 33 percent, she said, although Cote said the actual amount will eventually be less.
Harris said she would like to use part of the money for some sort of public-awareness campaign and to help other women.
Harris said she would encourage women to research their physicians and the procedures they’re going to have.
"There is no such thing as a safe surgery," Harris said. "If I could do that day over, I would have never gone in."