Private hospital ordered to pay RM5.1mil in damages to ex-prolintas CEO’s estate for negligence

KUALA LUMPUR, June 7 (Bernama) — The High Court here has awarded RM5.1 million in damages to the estate of the late former chief executive officer of highway operator Prolintas, who suffered brain damage after surgery at a private specialist hospital.

Justice Datuk Mohd Arief Emran Arifin made the decision after allowing the suit which was initially filed in 2018 by the late Datuk Zainudin A Kadir against a private hospital, an ear, nose and throat (ENT) surgeon and an anaesthetist (defendants). 

His widow Datin Nor Rizam Abdul Wahab, who was administrator Zainudin’s estate following his death in 2021, was substituted as the plaintiff.

In a 79-page judgment, the judge ruled that the plaintiff had proven on a balance of probabilities that all the defendants were liable for medical negligence.

“I also find that their failure to act in accordance with the expected levels of care did cause injury to the deceased. The chain of events that caused damage to the deceased involved a premature release from the postoperative recovery process and several unfortunate events which took place at the ward.

“The damages awarded by the court are to be borne jointly and severally by the defendants,” he said and ordered the hospital and the two doctors to pay another RM210,000 in costs to the estate of Zainudin. 

The bulk of the damages amounting to RM4 million came from loss of earnings, as the deceased was employed and had earned RM65,000 a month. Another RM500,000 was for pain and suffering.

In his judgement, the judge also made it clear that it was not the function of the court to punish the doctors or hospital but to compensate the plaintiff.

“The award of damages is an attempt by the legal system to put the plaintiff in the same position as far as monetary compensation can,” he said.

According to the facts of the case, Zainudin was admitted to the hospital on Feb 22, 2016 and underwent nasal surgery four days later.

The surgery began at 5.45pm and ended at 8.05pm. Records showed the operation went well and no untoward incident during the surgery. However, Zainudin collapsed at 9.30pm.

The hospital’s protocol said doctors must observe patients in the recovery bay for at least an hour after the reversal of the anaesthesia before they are discharged to the ward, but in Zainudin’s case the process only lasted 25 minutes.

As the patient was still drowsy, the ENT surgeon intubated him in the oesophagus instead of the trachea which led to the brain damage. After the operation, he was transferred to a VIP ward where the oxygen adapter was also missing.

“I find the defendants are all jointly and severally liable for what transpired and cannot now put the blame solely on the second defendant (ENT surgeon),” the judge said. 

All the defendants have filed an appeal on liability and quantum.