MISSOULA, Mont. A Navy veteran permanently injured after bad surgeries has been awarded $622,739 in a lawsuit against the Veterans Affairs hospital in Salt Lake City.
"This man is a veteran and a proud Montanan, and he was determined to have his day in court," said David Paoli, attorney for James L. Lamb, 69, of Missoula.
"As a citizen, it is important to him that justice was served, and that's an important thing for regular people to see in their justice system," Paoli said.
Lamb accused doctors of botching a hernia operation by mistakenly severing an artery in his stomach. He nearly died of severe bleeding and spent four months at VA hospitals in Salt Lake City and Helena.
District Judge Donald Molloy in Missoula awarded $1.2 million in damages April 4. But under Utah law, which governed the case, damages for pain, suffering, and inconvenience cannot exceed $430,000.
Molloy also awarded $192,739 for loss of household production and medical bills.
In December 2004, Lamb went to the VA in Salt Lake City for an abdominal operation that was supposed to keep him there overnight. Instead, he was there for more than six weeks because of complications. He had five more surgeries at the hospital.
Lamb requested a transfer to Fort Harrison VA hospital in Helena, where he stayed until March 2005 for skin grafting of a large, non-healing abdominal wound.
He was hospitalized again in November 2007 for a small-bowel obstruction. Two months later, doctors at a VA hospital in eastern Colorado told him that surgery was too risky to solve the problem.
The judge said Lamb has several permanent injuries and now must wear an abdominal binder to contain his organs.
Lamb brought the claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act and was awarded the money following a one-day bench trial.