IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — A University of Iowa doctors' group paid $60,000 to settle a medical malpractice lawsuit just weeks after The Associated Press reported that the surgeon involved may have given incomplete or misleading testimony about his messy resignation, the settlement shows.
UI Physicians made the payment to resolve a lawsuit filed by Kimberly Buehrer, who claimed that doctor John Chaloupka failed to properly treat her arteriovenous malformation, or AVM, a rare condition in which tangled blood vessels cause abnormal blood flow. In Buehrer's case, the condition led to bleeding, damaged skin and a constant pulsing sound in one ear.
The settlement was signed in April, shortly after the AP won a two-year legal battle for public access to Chaloupka's resignation agreement. The settlement averted a trial that was scheduled for last week. No general state funding was used in the settlement, the details of which remained secret until its release Friday following an AP records request.
Chaloupka and a lawyer for UI Physicians didn't immediately return messages seeking comment.
The resignation agreement showed that Chaloupka, an international expert in treating brain aneurysms, was reassigned and stripped of key duties in 2010, but allowed to keep his $380,000 salary for another year. It also revealed that Chaloupka agreed not to make disparaging remarks about the university and that three top university doctors agreed not to disparage him.
The agreement promised Chaloupka a $100,000 bonus if he were to leave within six months, which he did not collect. After his resignation from Iowa, he took a job at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach, Fla., where he works today.
Chaloupka filed a lawsuit seeking to keep his resignation agreement secret, but it was released in March in response to an AP request after two courts ruled it was a public record.
Testifying under oath in a deposition in the Buehrer lawsuit, Chaloupka was asked last year about his departure from Iowa.
"Mainly, it was time for me to move on. I was presented with a much better opportunity here, and had lived in Iowa City for 13 years and was getting worn down by the winters and wanted to live in a warmer climate," he said. "So here I am."
Chaloupka said that he had some disputes with other doctors, but state lawyers didn't let him elaborate, saying that was irrelevant to Buehrer's claims.
Buehrer went to see Chaloupka in 2007 for treatment of the AVM — he is an expert in the condition — and he performed a procedure known as an embolization on her ear and scalp area. Buehrer returned to the Neurovascular Clinic weeks later with her ear ashen in color, bleeding and parts of it falling off, her lawsuit states. She was also suffering from numbness in her left leg, it said.
The Holland, Iowa, woman says Chaloupka told her the embolization was the first of many required surgeries, but he never followed up with her and the procedures were not scheduled. She says she was told no one else at UIHC could help her so she went to Arkansas to complete her treatment.
In his deposition, Chaloupka defended his treatment of Buehrer, saying his standard procedure was to wait several weeks to see how AVM patients respond to the first procedure before deciding how to proceed. He acknowledged that he traveled to China after her surgery for work but that he expected to see Buehrer again a few months later. He said his nurse coordinators had corresponded with Buehrer through telephone calls and email, even if he did not personally.
Buehrer filed the lawsuit in December 2009 seeking damages for pain and suffering and medical expenses.
"We're pleased that it got resolved," said her attorney, Martin Diaz of Iowa City.