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Jury awards $62M to Winthrop-University Hospital patient who lost legs

Stacey Galette poses for a photo in her

Stacey Galette poses for a photo in her lawyer's office on the day she won $62-million in a malpractice case against Winthrop-University Hospital. While undergoing surgery to resolve an ectopic pregnancy a doctor punctured her colon, resulting in blood poisoning, gangrene, and eventually double amputation of her legs. (Jan. 10, 2014) Credit: Anthony Lanzilote

A $62-million judgment against Winthrop-University Hospital and three doctors was awarded yesterday by a Brooklyn jury to a woman who went in for a gynecological procedure and ended up losing her legs.

Stacey Galette's bowel was punctured in October 2009 during an operation to remove an ectopic pregnancy, in which a fertilized egg grows outside the uterus.

She complained about abdominal pain but was discharged from the Mineola hospital, only to be readmitted a day later as infection spread. In her legs, gangrene set in, and in December 2009 they were amputated below the knees.

Galette was a medical assistant who lived in Hempstead at the time. She sued for medical malpractice about a year later. Her attorney said she has been unable to work since the operation.

After the verdict, Galette, now 33 and a Brooklyn resident, thanked the jury and her attorneys.

"I'm still trying to do the best that I can do," she said.

Despite defense attorneys' assertions that Galette knew the risks and that doctors had saved her life, the jury awarded her $58 million for pain and suffering, and $4 million for damages.

"My client will go on with her life . . . but she suffers," said her attorney, Sanford Rubenstein of Brooklyn.

Hospital spokesman Edmund Keating declined to answer questions, including whether Winthrop-University will appeal.

In a statement, the hospital said Galette's complication was difficult to identify.

"It was diagnosed as quickly as possible and treatment began right away," the statement said. "Unfortunately, Ms. Galette's condition deteriorated very rapidly, leading to a serious and life-threatening infection that required aggressive medical and surgical management. While these efforts saved her life, these measures resulted in her current disability."

The jury faulted obstetrician and gynecologist Dr. Paul Byrne on several fronts, including failing to recognize a bowel injury, and other doctors for discharging Galette and not doing additional tests, court papers show.

The jury held the hospital responsible for 40 percent of the liability, saying it had not notified key doctors of Galette's condition. Thirty percent of the blame went to Byrne and the rest was placed on two other doctors.

Byrne did not return calls last night.

At the time of her suit, a spokesman for the state Health Department, which investigates alleged malpractice, said the incident was evaluated but "no deficiencies were found."