Physician Who Recommended Surgery Performed By Another Surgeon Held Liable

In 2013, Veronica Yeakle went to the emergency room after a fall related to a problem with her right knee. At the hospital, Dr. Abubakar Atiq Durrani was called to consult on whether the problem could be neurological…, Ohio Appellate Court Holds Physician Who Recommended Surgery Performed By Another Surgeon May Be Held Liable For Medical Malpractice, Mar 2024


After reviewing the CT scan of Ms. Yeakle’s back, Dr. Durrani diagnosed several spinal issues that he believed caused the problems with Ms. Yeakle’s knee. Dr. Durrani scheduled surgery to correct these issues, but on the day of surgery, Dr. Durrani was unavailable. Dr. Nael Shanti, another surgeon in Dr. Durrani’s practice, filled in for Dr. Durrani and performed the surgery.


Following the surgery, Ms. Yeakle suffered significant back pain that had not existed previously. Ms. Yeakle contended that her knee problems were caused by a meniscus tear, an injury within the knee, not by an issue in her spine. Thus, she argued, the surgery recommended by Dr. Durrani and performed by Dr. Shanti was medically unnecessary.


In 2016, Ms. Yeakle filed suit against Dr. Durrani and the Center for Advanced Spine Technologies, Inc. (“CAST”), as well as the hospital where the surgeries were performed and the parent company of the hospital. Ms. Yeakle asserted claims against Dr. Durrani for medical negligence; battery; lack of informed consent; intentional infliction of emotional distress; fraudulent misrepresentation; and spoliation of evidence. She asserted claims against CAST for vicarious liability; negligent hiring, retention, and supervision; spoliation of evidence; violation of the Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act; and fraudulent misrepresentation. Although he performed the surgery at issue, Dr. Shanti was not named as a party.


Following a week-long trial, only the claims for medical negligence, lack of informed consent, and fraudulent misrepresentation were submitted to the jury. The parties agreed that if the jury found Dr. Durrani liable on any of the claims, CAST would be held vicariously liable. The jury found Dr. Durrani liable for medical negligence and lack of informed consent. The defendants filed a variety of posttrial motions, including motions for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, a new trial, remittitur, and a setoff. The trial court granted the defendants’ motion for a setoff but denied the remaining motions. An appeal followed.


The Court of Appeals First Appellate District of Ohio (“Ohio Appellate Court”) stated in its December 29, 2023 Opinion: “Ms. Yeakle did have a physician-patient relationship with Dr. Durrani. Dr. Durrani was the physician who treated her right up until the last-minute substitution of Dr. Shanti as the surgeon for Ms. Yeakle’s surgery. Therefore, Dr. Durrani did owe Ms. Yeakle the duty of care that was missing in White. Further, unlike Walls where the plaintiff rejected Dr. Durrani’s recommendation, the surgery Dr. Shanti performed on Ms. Yeakle was the procedure recommended, planned, and scheduled by Dr. Durrani. Construing the evidence most strongly in favor of Ms. Yeakle, reasonable minds ould conclude that Dr. Durrani was responsible for medical negligence in his diagnosis and subsequent recommendation for a surgery that resulted in worsening Ms. Yeakle’s condition. The trial court did not err in denying appellants’ motion for a directed verdict as to the medical-negligence claim.”


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