Deals & Cases

General Civil Disputes 2019-07-16
  • Share

    1. URL

DR & AJU Acts on Behalf of a Chinese Victim of a Plastic Surgery Medical Malpractice Action

In January, 2016, a Chinese patient A visited Korea for a double-jaw operation at a Hospital B but due to medical malpractice during the surgical procedure, she fell into a vegetative state caused by hypoxic brain damage. She was subsequently transferred to a hospital in Tianjin, China. DR & AJU, on behalf of her parents, acted on behalf of the victim for medical malpractice damages against 3 doctors including Park, the president of Hospital B, and doctors Choi and Lee. Recently, DR & AJU successfully obtained the court’s ruling that “the defendants shall jointly pay the plaintiffs KRW 1.08 billion”. This was possible because DR & AJU acted swiftly to secure the medical records of Hospital B and domestic hospitals which subsequently gave the victim medical treatment, and identified the medical malpractice of Hospital B through the close analysis by collecting its supporting evidence. Simultaneously, DR & AJU secured various supporting evidence for the damage amount by collecting a medical appraisal issued by a Chinese hospital and evidence of medical expenses at a Chinese hospital in close cooperation with A’s family and a local hospital in China.

During the litigation process, DR & AJU devoted its efforts to prove the defendants’ medical malpractice by arguing the following key factors: (i) the defendants failed to explain to A the risk of side effects prior to the operation, despite a very strong possibility of side effects from propofol anesthesia such as respiratory obstruction and respiratory depression; (ii) the defendants breached the duty of having an independent medical team to monitor the condition of the patient while under surgery, thereby failing to notice in an appropriate time that A had difficulty in breathing; and (iii) the defendants failed to take appropriate emergency measures and only performed endotracheal intubation after 7 minutes from A’s oxygen saturation level had dropped to 85% along with difficulty in breathing. The defendants attempted to evade their responsibility by arguing that A had a chronic disease related to the heart muscle and that she frequently drank alcohol and consumed a significant amount of alcohol even prior to the surgery, which caused a slow heart recovery in the state of emergency and aggravated the brain damage.

However, the court accepted DR & AJU’s argument and determined that, based on the findings that the defendants breached its duty to monitor the patient, failed to take appropriate emergency measures, breached its duty to provide explanations prior to the surgery, the defendants were negligent and limited their responsibility to 70%. Therefore, the court determined that the plaintiff was entitled to a total of KRW 1.08 billion in compensatory damages. As the K-beauty increasingly gains its renowned reputation boosted by the Hallyu boom and with the number of foreigners visiting Korea for a “medical tour” on the rise every year, the number of medical malpractice disputes is ever increasing as well. However, it is true that there are some difficulties for the foreign victims to medical malpractice to take legal actions for damages in Korea, such as a language barrier and difficulty in securing supporting evidence.

This case is an example of DR & AJU successfully acting on behalf of a foreign victim to medical malpractice by promptly and thoroughly communicating with the victim’s families in the foreign country and the relevant hospitals in order to successfully present arguments and evidences to convince the Korean court.