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Jury clears Clark in malpractice suit

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Expert testimony turns the tide

After deliberating just three hours, a Buena Vista County District Court eight-person jury Friday night found Dr. John Clark not guilty of malpractice in a foot surgery performed Jan. 24, 2001.

Larry Mooney of Nemaha had filed the suit, alleging that Clark had not informed him that it was the first such surgery that Dr. Clark had performed. Also, Mooney in his suit had said that Dr. Clark had not told him of the risks involved with the surgery and that Clark had taken too much bone, causing early onset arthritis in the adjacent bones in Mooney's foot.

Dr. Clark performed the surgery at what was then Buena Vista County Hospital while employed by Trimark Physicians Group. He now lives and practices in Maine.

"I'm very, very pleased," said Dr. Clark's attorney, Joe Fitzgibbons of Estherville. "There's no doubt Dr. Clark was very pleased with the outcome of the case.

"I thought our expert testimony from Dr. Hamm and Dr. Mandrachia also helped."

Fitzgibbons was speaking of the testimony of Dr. Brian Hamm of Fort Dodge and Dr. Vincent Mandrachia, who, along with two other doctors, testified either that Dr. Clark's procedure had not caused the later complications following his surgery that Mooney had alleged or that any proof of complications was inconclusive.

Testifying for the plaintiff was Dr. Chadwick Smith, professor of arthritic surgery at the University of Southern California and a world-renowned practitioner and expert in orthopedic surgery.

"The standard of care was not met," Dr. Smith had said under oath "This patient is much worse after the operation."

Dr. Smith testified in court under questioning from Fitzgibbons that he had been paid $5,000 to testify as an expert witness for a half day at the trial Friday morning. Dr. Smith also admitted to never having visited with Mooney as a patient or having read Dr. Clark's deposition. And, while terming the operation Dr. Clark performed on Mooney as "outdated", Dr. Clark also admitted the procedure was still being performed by surgeons.



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