Advertisement
  1. News

Woman who lost hands and feet to botched ovarian cyst surgery deserves $109 million, Tampa jury says

A jury awarded Lisa-Maria Carter $109 million after a routine gynecological procedure caused her to lose her hands and feet. She talked about her ordeal on Monday at a St. Petersburg rehabilitation center. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]
Published Jan. 29, 2018

TAMPA — A little more than six years ago, Lisa-Maria Carter had an operation to remove a benign ovarian cyst. She ended up losing her hands and feet.

A Tampa jury on Friday awarded Carter more than $109 million in damages from the University of South Florida. The surgery took place at Tampa General Hospital through USF's college of medicine, which employed the surgeon.

Carter, 52, endures constant abdominal pain, the result of a surgical error, the near severance of her small intestine, she alleged in a medical malpractice lawsuit. Flesh-eating bacteria decimated her lower bowel. Complications led to gangrene in her hands and feet, requiring four amputations below her knees and elbows.

She had a career as an intelligence analyst with the Department of Defense and had worked at Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base. She now uses a wheelchair and requires assistance for simple tasks like eating and bathing.

"It's very hard emotionally," she said Monday at the St. Petersburg rehabilitation center where she lives. "I try to keep my head up and not worry about it."

Carter said she was elated to learn a jury had ruled in her favor. The verdict came after a two-week trial. Two other trials ended in hung juries.

Her troubles began in late 2010. She had just landed a new job that required her to be sent to Iraq. She was close to retirement after a long career as an civilian intelligence analyst. She knew about the ovarian cyst, but felt no pain from it.

As she was about to board a military plane in Fort Benning, Ga., medical personnel told her she would have to stay behind until she could be medically cleared.

She returned to Tampa, where a gynecologist recommended outpatient surgery at TGH, which hosts the physicians and medical residents of USF's medical college.

Carter visited the hospital on Nov. 1, 2010, for what was supposed to be a non-invasive outpatient surgery, according to the lawsuit. Dr. Larry Glazerman, who was then USF's director of minimally invasive gynecologic surgery, operated.

During the procedure, Glazerman sliced through a portion of Carter's small intestine, according to the lawsuit. He then closed up the wound without addressing the damage.

After the surgery, her blood pressure dropped far below normal, to 67 over 48. A nurse guided her to a bathroom when her incision opened and emitted large amounts of bloody fluid. She later went into respiratory failure with signs of sepsis, the court record states.

Days later, Dr. Christopher Hults reopened Carter's surgical wound and found the intestine nearly sliced through, the record states. Flesh-eating bacteria consumed parts of her intestines, stomach and abdominal muscles. She endured several more operations as doctors cut away the decaying tissue.

Medicine that the doctors administered to boost Carter's blood pressure caused blood to flow away from her limbs, the suit states. That led to the gangrene.

The years that followed saw her slow and painful recovery. In time, she learned to sit up in bed and to walk using prosthetic legs. But she still requires constant care.

Carter sued TGH and USF in 2012. In the first trial, a judge ruled the hospital could not be held responsible.

Her attorney, Ken Dandar, explained that was because Carter had signed a form which stated that physicians exercise their independent judgment, absolving the hospital of potential liability. But the case against USF continued.

BACKGROUND: Ovarian cyst surgery led to massive infection

To collect, Carter will have to seek passage of a claim bill through the state Legislature. As a state-funded institution, USF is shielded from exposure in lawsuits through Florida's sovereign immunity law, which caps damages in such cases at $100,000.

"I would hope that they'd simply adopt the verdict," Dandar said. "For the USF administration and Board of Trustees to force my client to go to trial, not just once but three times, is a disgrace."

USF can also appeal the case.

"The University of South Florida has great sympathy for Ms. Carter and we recognize the life-changing injuries she has suffered," USF spokeswoman Lara Wade-Martinez said in a statement. "We also believe that the verdict that was delivered was not supported by the evidence. We will be carefully evaluating several grounds for appeal."

Glazerman is still a licensed physician in good standing in Florida. He is currently the medical director for Planned Parenthood of Delaware, according to his LinkedIn page.

Carter said she has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder because of what she has endured. In the years since she lost her limbs, she has earned a master's degree in forensic psychology through an online university. She hopes in the future to be able to counsel veterans who have lost limbs and suffered psychological damage from war.

Her immediate plans include visiting the Cleveland Clinic for further treatments to repair her abdomen and to help her to sit up straight. If she sees any part of the jury's award, she hopes to move into a house that can accommodate her condition and to obtain seven-day-a-week rehabilitation therapy.

Her attorney intends to take the case to the Legislature.

"They should know who Lisa-Maria Carter is and how she's served her country all these years," Dandar said. "They could speak to the powers that be at USF and say, 'Let's get it done.'"

Contact Dan Sullivan at dsullivan@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3386. Follow @TimesDan.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland talks about holding a cell phone to his ear as he talks with President Donald Trump as he testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, during a public impeachment hearing of Trump's efforts to tie U.S. aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) ANDREW HARNIK  |  AP
    Gordon Sondland told House impeachment investigators he pushed a “quid pro quo” with Ukraine because it was what the President wanted.
  2. The Florida Supreme Court building in Tallahassee. SCOTT KEELER  |  Times
    Department of Education attorneys say the lower courts ruled properly in tossing the case.
  3. Bob Larson, 81, from St. Petersburg, raises his hand to indicate he has a match while playing Bingo during a meal with fellow seniors in Langer Hall at the Sunshine Senior Center in St. Petersburg. Also present (but not pictured) is his wife, Janet Larson, 74. The Area Agency on Aging of Pasco-Pinellas funds 15 congregate dining sites in Pinellas and Pasco counties. The sites offer hot meals and socialization for 6,000 seniors. The Sunshine Center is one of those sites. DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Seniors are happy in their communities, but have concerns about health care, housing, transportation and support for caregivers
  4. Scott Purcell, a senior geophysicist with GeoView, left, and Mike Wightman, president of GeoView use ground penetrating radar technology to scan a portion of King High campus in search for Ridgewood Cemetery in Tampa, Florida on Wednesday, October 23, 2019.  OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    The mid-20th century Ridgewood Cemetery for the indigent and unknown was located on property later used to develop King High.
  5. Authorities say Rocky Ali Beamon strangled and stabbed 27-year-old Nicholas Anderson in January 2017 when they shared a cell at the Santa Rosa Correctional Institution in Milton. Florida Department of Corrections
    Rocky Ali Beamon previously had been sentenced to life in prison for a 2005 murder in Hillsborough County.
  6. The tenth annual Shopaplooza returns to St. Petersburg for the Thanksgiving Day weekend, but this time at the Vinoy Park and with major changes. LocalShops1
    The annual festival highlighting everything local was previously held at Straub Park. But that’s not the only change this year.
  7. Photo of the sign of the Skyway Marina District in St. Petersburg. [Photo Luis Santana | Times]
    The newest is being built on the site of the former Flamingo Resort.
  8. The Bookstore at the  Oxford Exchange during its First Friday event on 09/06/13. TIMES (2013)  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Plus other Instagram-worthy spots around Tampa Bay.
  9. FILE - In this Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018 file photo, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi speaks to reporters outside the West Wing of the White House in Washington, after meeting with President Donald Trump about about responses to school shootings. Bondi is preparing to defend Trump against accusations that he pressured a foreign government to aid his re-election campaign. And she’s stepping down from a lobbying where she represented foreign interests (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File) J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE  |  AP
    The special advisor to President Trump incorrectly stated Sondland’s role while appearing on national TV ahead of the EU ambassador’s testimony.
  10. Although people with insurance pay nothing when they get their flu shot, many don’t realize that their insurers foot the bill — and that those companies will recoup their costs eventually.
    Federal law requires health insurers to cover the vaccines at no charge to patients, but the companies eventually recoup the cost through higher premiums.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement