Karp v. Cooley

493 F.2d 408 (1974)

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Karp v. Cooley

United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
493 F.2d 408 (1974)

Facts

After a long history of cardiovascular problems, Haskell Karp was admitted to St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital (St. Luke’s) (defendant) in Houston, Texas. Karp’s wife, Shirley Karp (plaintiff), accompanied him. The Karps sought the assistance of Dr. Denton Cooley (defendant), who examined Haskell and recommended a heart transplant. Cooley explained to the Karps that Haskell had suffered an aneurysm, that Haskell’s pacemaker was about to fail, and that they could not afford to wait too long. Cooley recommended a wedge-excision procedure to repair the aneurysm and mentioned the possibility of inserting a mechanical heart to function as a prosthesis. The Karps signed a consent form that explained the risks of the procedure and referenced the mechanical heart. Cooley explained that there was a new model that would be used, which had been proven in a laboratory setting and tested on animals but not humans. According to the Karps, Cooley expressed confidence in the device and opined that it “hardly ever failed.” Cooley maintained that no guarantees were made. During surgery, the wedge excision failed, and the doctors decided to insert the mechanical heart. It was initially successful, but Haskell died the following day. Shirley brought suit individually and as executor of Haskell’s estate, advancing numerous claims, including wrongful death, fraud, negligence, and lack of informed consent. At trial, Cooley presented the testimony of numerous doctors, who testified that Haskell’s death was likely following the failed wedge excision. Expert testimony identified the mechanical heart as one possible, but less likely, cause of death. A district court issued a directed verdict for Cooley. Shirley appealed, maintaining her argument that she and her husband were not told certain details about the mechanical heart, including the nature and extent of the testing.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Bell, J.)

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