Retired Airman Colton Read and his wife Jessica have filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Fort Worth, Texas against the U.S. government alleging that gross negligence caused Colton to have his legs amputated after a routine gallbladder surgery.
According to the medical malpractice lawsuit, Read, 23, underwent a routine laparoscopic surgery to have his gallbladder removed at the David Grant Medical Center at the Travis Air Force Base in California. Early in the procedure, Capt. Ryan Schutter, a resident physician allegedly improperly inserted a surgical device that lacerated Reed’s aorta. The surgery was supervised by Maj. Kullada Pichakron. The lawsuit says, “This aortic puncture, laceration or injury was about 9 to 11 millimeters in length, and it caused massive bleeding in Airman Read’s retroperitoneal area.” The suit continues, “However, Dr. Pichakron and Dr. Schutter did not recognize this traumatic injury to Airman Read’s aorta until later in the surgery.”
The lawsuit claims that by the time the doctors realized something was wrong, opened Read’s abdomen, and sutured the tear in an effort to stem the damage, Read had lost a massive amount of blood. The suit says, “As time progressed with Colton Read in the ICU, the condition of his lower extremities did not improve and the ischemic condition of his right and left legs worsened. Assessments by his physicians, nurses and other health care providers of his legs continued to deteriorate from pale to mottled as time passed,” the Star-Telegram reports. Several hours later, Read was transferred to the civil hospital of University of California-Davis Medical Center, where it was determined that his legs were dead, and had to be amputated. The Air Force investigated and determined no disciplinary action would be taken against the doctors or the hospital.
The lawsuit challenges the Feres Doctrine, which protects the government from being sued for negligence by members of the military, even if the negligence occurs while not in combat.
The lawsuit seeks damages for physical impairment, loss of earning, pain and suffering, mental anguish and disfigurement in the amount of $34.3 million. The suit also seeks $20.5 million for Jessica for loss of enjoyment of life or loss of capacity to enjoy life, loss of a normal relationship with her husband, and the loss of household services of her husband.