New Mexico Jury Awards $2M For Botched Back Surgery

A Santa Fe jury has awarded $2 million to a man whose back surgery was so badly botched he suffered cardiac arrest and required three more surgeries.

Matt McCann entered Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center in Santa Fe in May 2008 for removal of a herniated disc. But the surgeon accidentally cut into a major artery and vein and didn’t notice the mistake.

McCann went into cardiac arrest 36 hours later and doctors discovered what had happened. Egolf says McCann suffered damage to nerves that control his bladder and bowels, and brain damage.

McCann’s attorney, Brian Egolf, told the Santa Fe New Mexican that Friday’s award for his client is significant and he hopes the money improves his client’s life.

The jury also ordered Christus St. Vincent to pay $50,000 to Stephanie Roberts, McCann’s former wife, based on the claim that the ordeal and changes in McCann’s personality caused by the trauma destroyed the couple’s marriage.

McCann’s attorneys had also asked jurors for punitive damages because hospital workers failed to notice that something was wrong with McCann after the surgery. Jurors declined to add the punitive damages.

The hospital’s attorneys could not be reached.

McCann’s brother, John McCann, said he was “disappointed that the jury did not awarded punitive damages” in the case. He said $2 million will not restore his brother’s health or marriage and is but a “drop in the bucket” to the nonprofit medical center, which is part of the Christus Health Systems organization.

Matt McCann worked for several local galleries and as an artist representative before he became disabled. He declined to comment on the verdict. Roberts did not return a call seeking comment.

The jury heard five days of testimony and deliberated for less than three hours Friday. District Judge Sarah Singleton’s instructed the jury before deliberations began that at least 10 of the 12 jurors had to agree for the verdict to be valid. When jurors were polled at the reading of the verdict, 11 of the 12 said they agreed with the decision.