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Appeals Court Upholds Ruling Awarding Family $9.5M Over Negligence Suit Against University of Louisville Hospital

— March 8, 2022

Carolyn Boerste and her family are set to receive $9.5 million after an appeals court upheld a jury ruling over a negligence lawsuit filed in 2017.

Earlier this week, an appeals court agreed to uphold a jury ruling that will award $9.5 million to the family of Carolyn Boerste. The jury ruling stems from a lawsuit filed after a “physician left an 18-inch sponge in Carolyn’s abdomen that remained in her stomach for 5 years.”

Closeup shot of gavel; image by Bill Oxford, via
Closeup shot of gavel; image by Bill Oxford, via

According to the original suit, Carolyn “underwent aortobifemoral bypass surgery at University of Louisville Hospital In March 2011 to improve circulation in her lower extremities.” Prior to the procedure, Carolyn suffered from peripheral vascular diseasehypertension, and diabetes, all of which “caused a wound on her toe to become infected and gangrenous,” according to court documents. 

Unfortunately, during the procedure, Marvin Morris, MD, and the surgical team “left a laparotomy sponge in Boerste’s abdomen.” When commenting on the matter, attorneys representing the family characterized “the 18-by-18-inch object as more like a towel.” For years the sponge went undetected, and over time it “eroded via transmural migration from Boerste’s abdomen into her intestine, causing diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea,” according to the lawsuit. In March 2015, Carolyn’s abdominal pain became so severe that she was rushed via ambulance to the emergency room. While there, a doctor “ordered an abdominal CT scan, which showed the x-ray detectable sponge marker inside Boerste’s intestine.”

However, the doctors who treated her in the emergency room never told Carolyn about the sponge marker. Instead, she was “discharged from the hospital with a urinary tract infection diagnosis.” Later, during the litigation process, the emergency physician who treated Carolyn in the emergency room testified that he had no memory of the incident, even though the CT scan was faxed to Carolyn’s family physician. When the family physician was asked about the matter, she testified that “she read the report but did not mention the sponge marker to Boerste because she believed the issue had been handled by the emergency physician.” Little did she know, the sponge ended up staying inside Boerste for 20 more months before it was finally removed.

In November 2016, Carolyn returned to the emergency department with even more gastrointestinal issues. Yet another CT scan was ordered, which once again revealed the presence of the sponge. Later that month, it was “removed by exploratory laparotomy.”

Relieved to finally have the sponge removed, Carolyn alleged in her suit that the “removal surgery resulted in the amputation of her leg because of wounds developed on her lower extremities while she was bedridden during recovery.” The negligence suit was filed in 2017 and named Morris, the hospital, and a handful of others. The trial began in December 2019.


Lawsuit: 18-Inch Sponge Left in Stomach for 5 Years; Migrates Internally

Surgical sponges left inside woman for at least 6 years

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