Former Patriot Coach Loses Obesity Surgery Malpractice Lawsuit

July 26, 2007

A Boston jury has found against Notre Dame football coach Charlie Weis in his medical malpractice lawsuit against two doctors he claimed botched his care after he had gastric bypass surgery five years ago.

The jury deliberated almost three hours before finding Massachusetts General Hospital surgeons Charles Ferguson and Richard Hodin were not negligent.

Weis, 51, who won three Super Bowls as offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots, accused the surgeons of negligence for allowing him to bleed internally for 30 hours before performing a second surgery to correct the complication.

Weis became gravely ill after the 2002 surgery and nearly died. He testified he still has numbness and pain in his feet and sometimes has to use a motorized cart. Seated next to the surgeons on the front row of a courtroom bench, he was stoic as the verdict was read and left the courtroom without comment.

His lawyer, Michael Mone, did not immediately return calls to The Associated Press.

Mone told The Boston Globe he doubted Weis, who he said was flying back to Indiana and could not be reached for comment, would appeal.

“Obviously, Mr. Weis and I are disappointed. We recognize these cases are very difficult. They involve very complicated medical facts, and the jury listens to very different views on complicated medical facts. Medical malpractice cases are very difficult,” Mone told the newspaper.

The doctors declined comment as they left the courtroom, referring questions to their attorney, William Dailey Jr.

“They are greatly relieved by the verdict,” Dailey said. “It’s obvious that the jury quickly determined there was no evidence of any ongoing bleeding for 30 hours.”

“They and all of the staff down at the Mass. General wished Coach Weis well.”

Ferguson, director of Massachusetts General’s surgical residency program, and Hodin, a surgeon and professor at Harvard Medical School, said internal bleeding was a well-known complication of the stomach stapling surgery. They said they believed the bleeding would stop on its own and were concerned about performing a second surgery because of the risk of a pulmonary embolism.

Ferguson testified Weis ignored his advice and pushed to have the operation done quickly rather than going through a recommended six-week preoperative program.

Lawyers for the doctors told the jury that Weis, who weighed about 350 pounds before the surgery, lost about 100 pounds over the next year and landed one of the premier coaching jobs in the country at Notre Dame, his alma mater.

Weis decided to have the surgery after seeing a slimmed-down Al Roker on television. With a family history of heart disease, he said he was motivated by a desire not to leave his wife a widow.

Weis testified that he told only two people, his wife and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, about his decision. He told New England coach Bill Belichick he was going to have a “stomach procedure.”

“I’ve always felt pretty good about being able to control things in my life,” Weis testified. “I always felt very disappointed that this (his weight) was something I couldn’t control.”

This was the second time the case had gone to trial. The first ended in a mistrial in February after Ferguson and Hodin rushed to the aid of a juror who collapsed in the courtroom.

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