Medical Malpractice Trial for Former Patriots Coach to Resume in Mass.

July 11, 2007

It was a dramatic end to a trial that pitted Notre Dame football coach Charlie Weis against two respected surgeons: a juror collapsed, the doctors rushed to his aid and the judge declared a mistrial.

Some in the legal community thought Weis would then reach a settlement with the two Massachusetts General Hospital surgeons rather than go through a retrial.

But with no settlement in sight, the former Patriots offensive coordinator is heading back to court this week for a second trial in a year on his claim that the surgeons botched his care after gastric bypass surgery in 2002.

Jury selection is scheduled to begin Friday in Suffolk Superior Court.

Weis claims the doctors acted negligently by allowing him to bleed internally for 30 hours after the surgery before performing a second operation to correct the complication. He was in a coma for two weeks and nearly died.

But the Boston doctors, Charles Ferguson and Richard Hodin, testified that routine postoperative tests did not reveal any problems, and that bleeding is a known complication.

“It is the position of the doctors who were involved in the care of Mr. Weis that he received very appropriate care,” said William Dailey Jr., the doctors’ attorney.

Weis’ attorney, Michael Mone, declined to comment before trial. Weis did not immediately return a message left Monday at his Notre Dame office.

Weis’ first trial in February, which featured testimony from Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, was entering its second week when a male juror collapsed during a medical expert’s testimony. Ferguson, Hodin and another doctor in the courtroom rushed to help him. The judge granted a mistrial after one of the remaining jurors said he didn’t know if he could put the doctors’ help out of his mind during deliberations.

Medical malpractice lawyers say Weis faces an uphill battle in the second trial. Winning a malpractice case against physicians is difficult, especially in Boston, where the medical community is world-renowned and usually given great respect by jurors. Juries find in favor of the doctor in the vast majority of medical malpractice cases that go to trial in the state.

“There’s certainly an appreciation of the medical profession and a recognition of the level of education that certainly works in the doctor’s favor,” said Boston attorney Andrew Meyer, who specializes in medical malpractice cases.

During the first trial, Weis testified that since the surgery, he has limited feeling in both feet, has pain when he stands for long periods of time and sometimes has to use a motorized cart.

But Weis’ weight loss and ability to land arguably one of the best coaching jobs in the country could work against him, Meyer said. During the first trial, the doctors’ lawyer suggested under cross examination of Weis that the surgery was successful because it helped him lose 90 pounds and get his dream job at Notre Dame, his alma mater.

Brady also is on Weis’ witness list for the retrial. He testified during the first trial about the special bond the two men share and described sitting by Weis’ bedside while he was in a coma.

The second trial is expected to last one to two weeks, and is expected to end before Notre Dame begins its preseason training camp on Aug. 6.

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