Daily Journal

Feb 23, 2023

LA jury clears neurosurgeon in $120M malpractice lawsuit

By Antoine Abou-Diwan Daily Journal Staff Writer

A jury in Los Angeles cleared a neurosurgeon who was accused of mal­ practice  after  a patient developed facial paralysis following surgery to remove a tumor in his ear canal. The plaintiff had sought $120 – million in damages.

The surgeon’s attorney, Louis “Duke” H. DeHaas, said that it was one of the toughest cases he has taken on in the last 15 years.

“Our verdict form was 17 pages long. It had five to six causes of action. I found it tricky to explain it to a jury, and how they should go about their business,” said the senior shareholder with La Fol­lette, Johnson, DeHaas, Fesler and Ames in Glendale. the, plaintiff, David Pullman. It cleared them of accusations that they misrepresented the risks as­sociated with the procedure and intentionally failed to disclose facts related to the operation. Da­ vid Pullman v. Rick A. Friedman, M.D. et al., BC597684, (L.A. Sup. Ct., filed Oct. 13, 2015).

Pullman, represented by Thom­ as P. Giuffra of Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo & Plotkin LLP in New York, sued Schwartz and another surgeon, Dr. Rick A. Friedman, in August 2014 following translab­ yrinthine craniotomy surgery to remove acoustic neuroma in his right ear. He accused them of pro­ fessional negligence, intentional misrepresentation and lack of in­ formed consent leading to disfig­urement and paralysis of the right damaged or completely severed the facial nerve. Pullman accused them of misrepresenting the risks of the surgery, their success rate, and the percentage of patients that experience facial nerve damage as a result of the surgery.

Friedman and Schwartz per­ formed the operation together, said DeHaas, who represented only Schwartz.

Friedman, a neurotologist, had to “drill a hole behind the ear, re­ move the mastoid bone, cut bone away from the auditory canal so the tumor is exposed, then my neurosurgeon comes in and takes out the tumor,” DeHaas said.

The area of the operation is sur­ rounded by the facial nerve, which makes it especially challenging.  “It was a known risk of the

‘He was a good guy, the  jury  saw he  was  a good guy.’ 


The jury found his client, Dr. Marc. S. Schwartz, believable and likable, DeHaas noted.  “He was a good guy, the jury saw he was a good guy. I had him on the witness stand for three days. As much as I could put him on the witness stand, I did. I was fortunate enough to beat the crap out of their expert,” DeHaas said.

The jury found that Schwartz and  House  Ear  Clinic,   where he was an employee and part­ side of his face as well  as a  host of other issues including impaired speech, vision, hearing and balance.  



Acoustic neuroma is a cancer that grows inward in the ear canal. Although it is benign, it can push on the brain stem with potentially fatal results if it is left untreated.  The complaint alleges that the surgeons caused a “life-threaten­ ing leak of cerebral fluid,” violated his instructions to stop the surgery,” DeHaas said. “It has a known risk of injury to the facial nerve. How injured will you be­ come? You usually end up with some type of residual problem.”

Friedman settled for a confidential amount, DeHaas said. He was represented by Patrick E. Stock­ alper and Jon R. Schwalbach of Kjar, McKenna & Stockalper LLP. Giuffra, the plaintiff’s  attorney, did not respond to a request for comment by press time.