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Malpractice Suit Nets $750,000

Mar 21, 2003 | Munster Times

A jury deliberated 16 hours before returning Friday afternoon to award $750,000 to the surviving family members of a Hammond woman, who suffered debilitating burns eight years ago while undergoing surgery.

The six-member jury found Dr. Thomas Kalmbach, of Lake County, guilty of medical malpractice. Porter Memorial Hospital and anesthesiologist Badr Ishak were cleared of the accusation.

The verdict was just the type of justice Hammond resident Sandra Gold has sought on behalf of her late mother, Margaret Frostick.

"It's been a nightmare the last eight years," she said.

Gold was on hand for the verdict, along with her brother, Bruce Frostick of Calumet City.

Frostick said he felt the case was handled fairly, but the partial victory was bittersweet.

"It won't bring mom back," he said.

The jury returned with the verdict after deliberating 11 hours Thursday and another five hours Friday. The group had spent four days listening to testimony concerning the Jan. 24, 1995, fire that occurred as 78-year-old Frostick was undergoing a procedure to clear out an artery in her neck. An oxygen mask she was wearing burst into flames as Kalmbach was using a sparking tool that cauterizes the skin to prevent bleeding.

Frostick, who has since died of unrelated problems, spent the last 3-1/2 years of her life with altered speech and appearance, and a drooling problem, according to information provided during the trial.

South Bend attorney Todd Woelfer said he could not understand the verdict, considering all the evidence showed Kalmbach had provided proper care.

Woelfer had not yet talked to his client about the possibility of an appeal.

Attorney Tom Clements, who represented Frostick and her family, said he was surprised and unsure why the jury found fault with Kalmbach alone.

The $750,000 award was not far off from the $768,927 Clements had suggested to the jury.

The medical malpractice suit has been pending since 1995 and was nearly derailed three years ago, he said.

Porter Circuit Court Judge Mary Harper had decided the case was not sufficient to go a jury, but her decision was later overturned by an appellate court as a result of a change in the law.

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