Movie fans in New Jersey may remember Bill Paxton from his roles in Hollywood blockbusters like “Titanic” and “Twister,” and they were likely saddened when he passed away unexpectedly in 2017. Paxton suffered the stroke that took his life less than two weeks after he underwent heart surgery in Los Angeles, and his family have long claimed that his death was the result of medical malpractice. Paxton’s widow and two children filed a wrongful death lawsuit in 2018 against the hospital where the surgery was performed, the surgeon who performed it and the anesthesiology company that assisted in the procedure, and court papers filed on Feb. 23 reveal that at least one of the defendants has chosen to settle.
According to Paxton’s family, the surgeon used a risky and unconventional technique to replace one of the 61-year-old actor’s heart valves and repair damage to his aorta. They also claim that the surgeon lacked the experience and skills needed to perform the operation successfully. In their medical malpractice lawsuit, the family say the surgery left Paxton with a damaged coronary artery that caused profuse bleeding and cardiogenic shock.
Papers filed in Los Angeles Superior Court indicate that the anesthesiology company named in the lawsuit has agreed to pay $1 million to settle the matter. The settlement also calls for the plaintiffs to drop their claim against the anesthesiologist involved. An attorney representing the defendants said that his clients maintain that they did nothing wrong, and their decision to settle was based purely on business considerations. The trial for the remaining defendants is scheduled to begin in September.
When cases like this one go to trial, causation is often the most contentious legal issue. Plaintiffs in medical malpractice lawsuits must convince the court that negligence was the direct cause of their harm, which can be difficult to do when the victim was already gravely ill. This is why expert witnesses are called to testify in these cases. Experts can study medical records to identify when mistakes were made, and they could convince juries that the victim would have fared much better if they had received adequate care.