A Philadelphia jury yesterday awarded a Delaware County couple $20.5 million in damages for the death of their 18-year-old daughter following a liposuction procedure.
In a poignant twist, the verdict was announced on the seventh anniversary of the day Amy Fledderman, a Penn State freshman from Newtown Square, underwent the procedure that would to lead her death on May 25, 2001.
Lawyers for the main defendant, Richard P. Glunk, a King of Prussia plastic surgeon, are expected to appeal.
The verdict, following a five-week trial and three days of deliberations in Common Pleas Court, included unusually high punitive damages of $15 million against Glunk.
The young woman's family had alleged that Glunk was not permitted to conduct the procedure without supervision, did not fully explain possible complications to his patient, and delayed for hours seeking medical help when complications developed.
Outside court, Fledderman's mother Colleen, who wept during the reading of the jury's decision, said, "We appreciate all the time the jury put into it; they were there for a long time."
She acknowledged the case will probably continue under appeals and she said the "most valuable thing" the family left with yesterday was a large portrait of their daughter that had been displayed during the trial.
Daniel Fledderman, the young woman's father, said he hoped the verdict would "discourage any other doctors from treating anyone like this."
Their attorney, Slade H. McLaughlin, of the Beasley Firm, said the trial was the longest of his 25-year career.
"I almost felt it was some sort of omen that the jury came back on the seventh anniversary of the surgery," he said.
Fledderman, who stood 5-foot-5 and weighed 128 pounds, had gone to Glunk to remove some stomach and chin fat she could not seem to lose after slowly chipping away 25 pounds through diet and exercise.
The procedure was conducted at Glunk's office and Fledderman died two days later at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. The Philadelphia Medical Examiner's Office ruled complication of fat embolism due to liposuction as the cause of the unexpected death.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health determined in September 2001 that Glunk's office was not properly licensed and ordered him to stop doing liposuction and certain other procedures there until it was designated an "ambulatory surgical facility."
The Montgomery County District Attorney's Office also investigated but decided there was insufficient evidence of criminal negligence to seek homicide charges.