Vt. Surgeon Ordered to Pay $1.1 Million

A federal court jury ordered a Brattleboro, Vt. surgeon to pay $1.1 million to a Massachusetts man who lost part of his leg after a burn on his toe became infected.

The jury ruled on Monday after a five-day trial that Dr. John Bookwalter was negligent in the 2001 treatment of Charles Olanyk, 56, of Whatley, Mass.

Court documents said that Olanyk, who suffered from a variety of ailments including high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes, stubbed his toe in June 2001, and treated himself with a heating pad.

When the pain continued, Olanyk first went to an orthopedist who referred him to Bookwalter, court documents said.

The lawsuit alleged that Bookwalter treated the burn with topical cream and antibiotics.

“Our allegation was that he should have been sent to a burn doctor,” said Olanyk’s attorney Tom Lesser of Northampton, Mass. “Instead, a conservative treatment was followed.”

Olanyk allegedly saw Bookwalter several times before collapsing at his home in July 2001. He was eventually taken to Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Mass., where his left leg was amputated below the knee.

Bookwalter, who works at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital, said his insurance would cover up to $1 million of the judgment.

“I thought it was crazy to be sued for a self-inflicted injury,” Bookwalter told the Brattleboro Reformer.

Bookwalter said the case showed the difficulty of taking care of overweight patients. In 2001 Olanyk weighed 460 pounds. He lost 150 pounds after surgery, Bookwalter said.