Jury awards $543K in lawsuit against Pismo Beach outpatient surgery center

A jury recently awarded a local banker more than half a million dollars after it determined a Pismo Beach outpatient surgical center had been negligent in his care.

Paso Robles resident Charles Blevins, 66, filed a medical malpractice complaint in San Luis Obispo Superior Court in January 2012, more than a year after he developed a severe deep-tissue infection following arthroscopic knee surgery at Coastal Surgical Institute.

It was later determined that medical devices used in his surgery were contaminated with pathogenic bacteria, which led to an infection, according to a complaint filed by Blevins’ attorney, Jeffrey Stulberg.

On Dec. 13 before Judge Martin J. Tangeman, a jury determined that the center’s negligence was a substantial factor in causing harm to Blevins, and awarded him $543,034 for lost earnings, past and future medical expenses, and for past and future pain and suffering.

In court documents, Coastal Surgical Institute denied the allegations. It plans to appeal the verdict, according to a statement issued by Megan Maloney, a spokeswoman for the surgery center and for Dignity Health, which owns a majority share of Coastal Surgical Institute. The remaining ownership is split among the 21 doctors at the center.

Dignity Health owns Arroyo Grande Community Hospital, French Medical Center in San Luis Obispo and Marian Medical Center in Santa Maria.

“The Coastal Surgical Institute is a leading surgery center on the Central Coast and has an impeccable reputation for providing quality, compassionate service and care,” Maloney said in the statement.

“The product at fault in this case is a disinfecting sponge used to clean surgical equipment. … Coastal Surgical Institute provided necessary care and follow up to Mr. Blevins and immediately discontinued use of this product.”

According to court documents, Dr. Otto Schueckler performed arthroscopic surgery on Blevins’ right knee on Sept. 10, 2010. Schueckler was not named as a defendant in the complaint.

On Sept. 4, 2010, Blevins called the doctor to report severe pain in his right knee and a fever. Blevins went to the emergency room at Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center, where he received treatment and was placed on antibiotics, according to a declaration of another doctor who examined Blevins.

In October 2010, Coastal Surgical Institute gave Blevins a check for $4,116.23. While Blevins’ complaint states the money was a partial payment of costs, court documents filed by Coastal Surgical Institute state that it was final payment for all claims “asserted by plaintiff as a result of any post-operative complications he allegedly sustained.”

Blevins later had total knee replacement surgery in March 2011, and a revision surgery in May 2012. He continues to experience knee pain, his attorney said, and his colleagues at Founders Community Bank, where he is a senior vice president, have modified his schedule.

“Because of his knee injury and inability to walk stairs and climb and poke around at construction sites, they had to hire another person to go with Chuck and do the climbing” when needed for his job, Stulberg said.