Jury cites local surgeon’s negligence (Updated)

Editor's Note: This story was updated Saturday evening with comments from the doctor.


A local surgeon was ordered to pay $350,000 as a part of a $1 million lawsuit this week after a jury found him negligent when a Johnson Middle School teacher died four days after his appendix was removed, according to court documents.

Jimmy Hughes, 63 years old at the time of the surgery, died after a surgical tube feeding into his stomach came out, said Craig Stevens, an attorney with the Ft. Myers-based office of Morgan and Morgan, representing Hughes’ wife, Carol Hughes and his estate.

Dr. Joseph Pecoraro, a surgeon who has been practicing medicine since 1984, ordered medical staff at Lakewood Ranch Medical Center to leave out the tube, Stevens said.

Pecoraro contended he did order the tube to be reinserted.

“The tube that could have saved his life was ordered to be put back, but due to circumstances unknown to us, it was not,” said Pecoraro via phone Saturday.

Hughes vomited numerous times as his condition worsened; he eventually went into cardiac arrest and died, Stevens said.

“(Carol) was very satisfied and always believed Dr. Pecoraro had failed in his treatment of her husband. She finally heard it from the jury,” Stevens said at the end of the seven-day trial.

Hughes had to have surgery Sept. 14, 2006, when he was diagnosed with a perforated appendix, according to court documents.

Pecoraro’s defense argued Hughes died “as a result of the natural process of human disease and condition and as a result of a recognized risk of the procedures necessary to diagnose and treat the disease,” according to court documents.

Part of the blame was also placed on the medical support staff at Lakewood Ranch Medical Center.

The lawsuit also included Lakewood Ranch Medical Center and Pecoraro’s practice, Cosmetic Vein Clinic of Florida.

Lakewood Ranch Medical Center opted to settle with the Hughes family out of court, Stevens said.

The jury returned a verdict Wednesday for a $1 million lawsuit assessing the hospital with 65 percent of blame and Pecoraro and his practice with 35 percent of the blame, according to court documents.

Stevens said Hughes was healthy up until then.

According to Florida Department of Health medical records, Pecoraro has no history of disciplinary action or complaints on file. He participates in the We Care Manatee program, which provides free specialty medical care to low income and uninsured residents.