Case details

Plastic surgeon denied puncturing hole during neck lift





Result type

Not present

disfigurement, emotional distress, face, mental, nose, psychological, scar
On Jan. 29, 2015, plaintiff Uyen Ho, 27, a store owner and part-time model, presented to the office of Dr. Thuan Nguyen, a plastic surgeon, for a scheduled neck lift. Ho claimed that Nguyen punctured a hole under her chin during the surgery and that the hole became an open wound that led to a permanent scar. Ho sued Nguyen and his practice, The Institute of Cosmetic and Reconstructive Surgery. Ho alleged that Nguyen was negligent in the performance of the neck lift procedure and for the post-operative care he provided. Ho also alleged that Nguyen’s negligence constituted medical malpractice and that The Institute of Cosmetic and Reconstructive Surgery was vicariously liable for the doctor’s actions. Plaintiff’s counsel contended that Nguyen punctured Ho with a cannula, a thin tube inserted into a vein or body cavity during surgery, and that Nguyen failed to notice or close the wound during the neck lift. Counsel also contended that Nguyen failed to address the wound during Ho’s four post-operative visits, the last of which occurred in April 2015. As evidence, Ho presented photographs that showed an open wound under her chin that was separate from the surgical incision. She claimed that Nguyen failed to tell her about the puncture wound until she noticed it herself the day after the initial neck lift. She also claimed that when she then asked the doctor about the injury, he admitted to accidentally puncturing the hole. Defense counsel disputed Ho’s claim that she was punctured during the surgery, and Nguyen denied telling Ho that he had created a hole. Defense counsel contended that the wound was not made during the procedure and that, instead, it developed two weeks later. Counsel argued that the photos Ho presented were not dated, so there was no proof they were taken right after the surgery. Counsel argued that if the puncture wound had occurred during the surgery, the wound would have healed at the same time as the surgical incision, but that the surgical incision shown in the pictures was healed, which supported the defense theory that the wound developed weeks after the neck lift. Defense counsel also argued that if Nguyen had accidentally punctured a hole in Ho’s chin during the neck lift, he would have sutured it up during the initial procedure. However, counsel maintained that the cannula was too small to have formed a wound the size of Ho’s injury and that, instead, the open wound was actually caused by a blister. The defense’s plastic surgery expert opined that the blister developed following the neck lift and that it was the result of devascularization — a known complication of the surgery. The expert also opined that the injury was exacerbated by a prior procedure Ho had to her neck. The expert further opined that even if the hole was created during the surgery, leaving the wound open was not a deviation from the standard of care and that since the injury was just a blister, there was no need for Nguyen to apply sutures or otherwise address the wound. Defense counsel noted that plaintiff’s counsel failed to present any experts to support the theory that Nguyen caused the wound and that regardless the cause, Ho had signed a consent form prior to the procedure that stated that she might develop a scar., Ho claimed she suffered a puncture hole under her chain. She did not get any treatment for the open wound and it healed on its own within a month of the neck lift. However, she claimed that she was left with an unsightly scar on her face. Ho claimed that she was working as a model at the time of the neck lift, so her appearance is important to her, but that she is now self-conscious about the scar. Ho is still modeling, however, and did not claim a loss of income due to her injury or scar. Instead, she wanted to get her money back from Nguyen following the neck lift and hoped to undergo surgery to address the scar. Ho sought recovery of $6,500 in past medical expenses. She also sought recovery of damages for her past and future pain and suffering. Defense counsel disputed Ho’s claim that the scar affected her self-consciousness, and argued that Ho appeared confident in various social media photos she posted after the surgery. Counsel also noted that Ho signed a consent form prior to the procedure that stated that she might develop a scar.
Superior Court of Orange County, Santa Ana, CA

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