Pennsylvania Superior Court backs $20 million award in liposuction lawsuit

Posted: November 14, 2010

An appeals court has affirmed a jury's award of more than $20 million to the family of 18-year-old Amy Fledderman, the Pennsylvania State University freshman from Delaware County who died as a result of a liposuction operation in 2001.

A three-judge panel of Pennsylvania Superior Court found Friday that the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas did not err on multiple fronts, as challenged on appeal by Richard P. Glunk, a King of Prussia plastic surgeon whose liability included $15 million in punitive damages after a five-week trial in 2008.

Fledderman, of Newtown Square, died on May 25, 2001, two days after she suffered complications during surgery at Glunk's office to remove fat from her stomach and chin.

Glunk and the nurse who assisted him lost their appeal on all fronts. The appeals court did reverse the lower court in one aspect, sought by the Fleddermans - that the court should be asked to calculate additional damages based on delay by the defendants.

It was not clear whether the defendants would appeal to the state Supreme Court.

Dean F. Murtagh, attorney for Glunk, said Saturday night that he was trying another case and had not yet read the opinion or consulted with his client. An attorney for Edward J. DeStefano, the nurse anesthetist who assisted Glunk, could not be reached for comment.

Slade H. McLaughlin, attorney for the Fleddermans, said, "I was very pleased, and so were the Fleddermans."

The appeals court ruled that the jury had been correct in awarding $2 million in damages to Fledderman's mother, Colleen, for the emotional distress of standing by helpless as Glunk refused to send her daughter to a hospital over a period of 21/2 hours. The court also agreed that evidence that Glunk's facility had not been properly licensed had been properly introduced.

It also held that the $15 million in punitive damages was not excessive.

"Dr. Glunk ignored both the warning signs of a medical emergency and a mother's desperate pleas for transfer to a hospital," Judges Mary Jane Bowes, Susan P. Gantman, and John T.J. Kelly Jr. wrote in their opinion.


Contact staff writer Jeff Shields at 215-854-4565 or jshields@phillynews.com.

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