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Nuñez-Tesheira wins $18m lawsuit over husband’s death
A private medical institution and a specialist doctor have lost their appeal over an $18 million lawsuit from former finance minister Karen Nunez-Tesheira for their alleged negligence in her husband’s death after a prostate operation in 2004.
Delivering a 109-page judgment at the Hall of Justice in Port-of-Spain yesterday, Appeal Court judge Judith Jones dismissed the appeal in which Gulf View Medical Centre and anaesthesiologist Dr Crisen Roopchand had raised almost 80 grounds against the decision of a High Court judge who ruled against them in 2015.
In her judgment, Jones analysed all the evidence before Justice Vasheist Kokaram including Nunez-Tesheira’s witnesses and the hospital and its staff’s notes and records. While Jones did not agree with all Kokaram’s findings, she ruled that he made the correct final decision.
Jones said: “While the judge may have at times misstated the cause of death, I cannot say that in determining that the negligence of the appellants cumulatively resulted in the deceased’s death, the judge was plainly wrong.”
Kokaram had ruled that the hospital failed to monitor and contain Tesheira’s post-surgical bleeding and maintain an appropriate supply of blood and clotting agents as he was transfused with O+ blood instead of the A+ he required.
He also ruled that Roopchand was negligent in not taking steps in controlling Tesheira’s bleeding and checking if he was on an aspirin regime before the operation was performed.
Jones stated that the hospital and Roopchand failed to demonstrate any basis for interfering with Kokaram’s decision.
“In the course of treating the DIC, the failure of the appellants to properly monitor the deceased’s status during the transfusions of blood and blood products led to excessive fluids being transfused into the deceased and caused his death as a result of fluid overload. Had the appellants treated the deceased’s excessive bleeding properly and in a timely manner, the deceased would not have succumbed to the excessive bleeding to such an extent as to require such massive transfusions of blood and blood products which resulted in his fluid overload and ultimately his death,” Jones said.
Jones also rejected the duo’s claims that the compensation awarded by Kokaram was exorbitant.
She stated that his calculations were properly based on records of the salary paid to Tesheira’s successor at then insurance giant Clico and took into account a 33 per cent deduction for annual living expenses and 15 per cent deduction for fluctuations in his bonuses.
Jones also ruled that Kokaram was within his remit to predict that Tesheira’s widow should receive five years of his salary based on his age and medical condition at the time of his death.
“Adopting a multiplier of five mean that the period under consideration was 2004 to 2008. In those circumstances the financial crisis of the employer in 2009 would have made no difference,” Jones said.
In a brief interview afterwards, Nunez-Tesheira said she was happy with the outcome but predicted that the hospital and doctor may decide to appeal further.
“It has been 13 long years. It has made me understand what litigants go through. It has given me an understanding that I did not have before,” Nunez-Tesheira, who is also an attorney, said.
Nunez-Tesheira was represented by Douglas Mendes, SC, and Marcelle Ferdinand. Gulf View’s legal team included Mary O’Rourke, QC, Anand Beharrylal and Winston Seenath. Roopchand was represented by Roger Kawalsingh and Ravi Mungalsingh.
ABOUT THE CASE
Insurance executive Russell Tesheira died at age 54 after undergoing a transurethral resectioning of the prostate operation at the Gulf View Medical Centre on April 13, 2004.
During the procedure an instrument is inserted up the patient’s urethra to remove the section of the prostate that is blocking urine flow. Two hours after the procedure, Tesheira was found to be bleeding excessively, prompting doctors to perform a secondary operation and emergency blood transfusions. Tesheira died on the operating table.
His widow, Karen Nunez-Tesheira, filed the lawsuit claiming the hospital and the two doctors who did the procedure — anaesthesiologist Dr Crisen Jendra Roopchand and urologist Dr Lester Goetz — were negligent in her husband’s death.
In 2011, Justice Vasheist Kokaram dismissed the lawsuit at a preliminary stage after Nunez-Tesheira failed to meet two successive deadlines he set for filing her evidence against the three parties.
While appealing the decision, Nunez-Tesheira came to an agreement with Goetz which saw him being removed from the lawsuit without accepting liability.
Nunez-Tesheira eventually won in the Court of Appeal and the lawsuit was reinstated.
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