A jury has awarded a man $500,000 after his anesthesiologist made comments about him while he was sedated for a colonoscopy procedure. Her lawyer argued that he recorded the conversation illegally because he didn't obtain her consent. In Virginia where the case was filed, this is legal, however, because only one party needs to consent to the recording of a conversation. A similar rule applies in North Carolina as well.
The man accidentally left his cellphone on after he had turned on the recording feature to record instructions he would need to follow from his doctor after the procedure. Because he was unconscious, the man only learned about the rude comments after he pressed play on his cellphone on the way home.
The anesthesiologist reportedly referred to the man as a "big wimp" and a "retard" and joked about falsifying his medical records by writing on his chart that he had hemorrhoids. She also warned an assistant not to touch a genital rash, because she might get "syphilis" on her arm and stated that the man probably had "tuberculosis in the penis." After hearing the comments, the man sued the anesthesiologist for defamation and malpractice. He was awarded $200,000 in punitive damages, $200,000 on the malpractice claims and $100,000 for defamation.
A jury can award punitive damages when it thinks that a defendant's conduct was so egregious that it wants to make an example of the party being sued to discourage others from acting in similar ways. Medical negligence occurs when the behavior or actions of health care providers falls below the required standard of care. An attorney experienced in malpractice litigation may be able to help other patients who were harmed in a similar manner.