PORTLAND (AP) – A jury has awarded a woman $900,000 in damages after she sued surgeons that botched a surgery on a non-cancerous but painful breast condition five years ago and left her disfigured.

Deanna Vincent sued surgeons Melinda Molin and John Cederna in Cumberland County Superior Court after they mistakenly removed her nipples during the operation. Vincent also sued Mercy Hospital where the operation took place, but jurors cleared the hospital of any responsibility.

The award handed down Thursday was less than the $3.1 million Vincent sought, but it was substantial compensation for suffering, said Daniel G. Lilley her attorney.

“It’s not quite what we wanted, but we are satisfied,” Lilley said. “How the jury puts a value on physical disfigurement or mental scars, we’ll never know.”

Vincent needed six additional reconstructive operations, and is permanently scarred. She has been treated for depression and post-traumatic stress.

Before the trial, which started July 19, both Molin and Cederna admitted to performing the wrong operation on Vincent because of a failure to communicate. The trial was held to determine the amount of damages and whether the hospital was also to blame.

The case started in September 1999, when Vincent went to Mercy for medically necessary surgery to remove painful tissue in her breasts. Surgeons were to remove diseased tissue through a pair of semicircular incisions.

Instead, Molin cut all the way around the nipples, and told the nurses to preserve them, thinking that Cederna, a plastic surgeon, would reattach them during the reconstruction phase of the operation. They were thrown away.

Philip Coffin III, Cederna’s lawyer, said that if the doctors had met again before the surgery, the mistake would not have occurred.

“They really should have met and talked person to person about what the other was doing,” Coffin said. “They certainly have learned from this.”

The case went before a three-member malpractice screening panel. Just like the jury, the panel found the doctors at fault, but not the hospital.

In the settlement, Vincent requested $91,800 for lost wages and medical expenses, $3 million for pain, suffering, loss of enjoyment of life and permanent impairment. Molin’s lawyer recommended $250,000 for the non-economic damages.

Lawyers from both sides called the final judgment fair.

“This was never a frivolous case,” Coffin said. “We acknowledged from the beginning that she was injured and that she was entitled to damages.”

AP-ES-07-30-04 0216EDT

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