A jury has awarded nearly $1.8 million to a 70-year-old Las Vegas man who lived for a decade without knowing that a 57-inch metal wire ran through his body after a surgical error.
The verdict handed down late Tuesday for German “OT” Ortiz and his wife, Angela, came after a weeklong trial against the cardiologist who performed a 2005 angioplasty, Mark Taylor, and his company, Heart Center of Nevada.
“They are so grateful, as we are, to the jury and to the judge,” said one of Ortiz’s lawyers, James J. Jimmerson. “When justice prevails, it is a beautiful thing.”
When a doctor told Ortiz in 2015 that he needed surgery to clear blood clots, an X-ray exposed the wire stretching down his aorta, from his chest to his thigh, according to attorneys Jimmerson and his son, James M. Jimmerson.
Ortiz spent 22 years in the Air Force, receiving a Bronze Star, and has lived in Las Vegas for about 30 years, his lawyers said.
He serves as a youth pastor at Cornerstone Christian Academy and Preschool. A year ago, doctors removed two-thirds of the wire for a heart procedure, Ortiz’s lawyers said, though more than 20 inches still stretch down his thigh.
“He was forever changed when he learned about this wire,” James M. Jimmerson said.
Ortiz was taken to the University Medical Center emergency room after experiencing shortness of breath almost 14 years ago.
Doctors told him he had congestive heart failure and needed an angiogram, according to a lawsuit that Ortiz and his wife filed in 2016.
In an angiogram procedure, a catheter is inserted through the bloodstream to distribute a dye that allows doctors to photograph blood vessels. In Ortiz’s case, when the catheter was removed, a guide wire remained in his body, the suit alleged.
Taylor’s lawyer, Patricia Daehnke, denied that the doctor had left the wire inside Ortiz. At trial, Taylor told jurors that he was not informed of the wire inside Ortiz’s body until after the lawsuit was filed.
“You can’t tag Dr. Taylor with this,” Daehnke said during closing arguments this week.
James J. Jimmerson told jurors that the doctor’s “arrogance” lead to his denying responsibility for the wire.
“This family has been destroyed by that arrogance,” Jimmerson said. “We all have trust in doctors. But when they let you down they cause damage.”