Jury Awards $20.5 Mil.
For Fatal Liposuction
By Amaris Elliott-Engel
Of the Legal Staff
A Philadelphia jury awarded a $20.5 million verdict Friday to the parents of an 18-year-
old college student who allegedly died from a liposuction procedure gone wrong.
Of the $20.5 million award, $15 million was in punitive damages.
The jury returned the verdict seven years to the day of the elective liposuction Amy
Fledderman, 18, sought for her chin, abdomen and flanks with plastic surgeon Dr.
Richard P. Glunk on May 23, 2001, according to court papers.
Amy Fledderman’s parents, Daniel H. and Colleen M. Fledderman, sobbed as the 12-
member jury returned a unanimous verdict against Glunk and nurse anesthetist Edward
DeStefano late Friday morning.
In the Fledderman v. Glunk wrongful death and survival action, the jury awarded $15
million in punitive damages, $3.5 million under the Survival Act, $2 million for Glunk
allegedly negligently inflicting emotional distress on Colleen Fledderman, $20,000 under
the Wrongful Death Act and $5,000 for Glunk’s alleged failure to obtain Amy
Fledderman’s informed consent.
Plaintiffs’ attorney Slade H. McLaughlin of The Beasley Firm said in an e-mail that the
$15 million in punitive damages and $5.525 million in compensatory damages is within
the 9 to 1 punitive damages cap ratio required by the U.S Supreme Court decision in
Campbell v. State Farm. He also noted that the wrongful death damages are almost
exactly equal to Fledderman’s funeral costs and the informed consent damages were the
costs of her surgery.
The jury found Glunk 75 percent liable for Amy Fledderman’s death and found
DeStefano 25 percent liable regarding Fledderman’s medical care and treatment.
A five-week trial was held in front of Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Sheldon C.
Jelin. The jury deliberated for close to 2.5 days.
According to the plaintiff’s pretrial memorandum, a blood vessel in Amy Fledderman’s
neck was severed during the liposuction, and she was administered medication to which
was she allergic. Despite a respiratory emergency, the plaintiffs’ memorandum alleged,
Glunk and DeStefano kept Fledderman in Glunk’s office for 2.5 hours and did not call an
ambulance until she was on the verge of death, including appearing cyanotic, or blue, and
her oxygen levels had dropped from the normal high 90s to the 60s.
Fledderman died two days later as she was being transferred from Montgomery Hospital
to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, the plaintiffs’ memorandum said.
The plaintiffs’ memorandum said Fledderman had an agonizing death and spent the 24
hours before dying in severe pain, intubated and vomiting blood.
“Dr. Glunk and his staff engaged in a massive cover up, lying to the Pennsylvania
Department of State investigators, to the Pennsylvania Department of Health
investigators, and to detectives from the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office,”
the plaintiffs’ memorandum alleged. “It was not until the civil suit, during pointed
questioning of witnesses by plaintiffs’ counsel, that the truth was finally drawn from
under the rock where Dr. Glunk and his staff had attempted to hide it.”
Daniel and Colleen Fledderman said in an interview immediately following the jury
verdict that without the aggressive and whole-hearted pursuit of their civil action by their
attorneys McLaughlin and Maxwell S. Kennerly of The Beasley Firm that they would not
have received “justice” for their daughter.
They said they had never wanted to settle the case, but instead they had wanted to take
the case before a jury in the hopes that a civil grouping of Glunk’s peers would believe
their side of the case and make sure with their verdict that Glunk might not ever see any
McLaughlin said a decision is still pending regarding a hearing held in January over
Glunk’s medical license.
“It warmed my heart to see the Fleddermans in such a state,” McLaughlin said in an
interview following the verdict. “It was such a good feeling to turn all that hard work into
a home run.”
Glunk’s liposuction privileges had been restricted at Main Line Health Hospitals, and he
was required to be under the supervision of another liposuction surgeon, according to the
plaintiffs’ memorandum. Glunk’s King of Prussia office was not licensed by the
Pennsylvania Department of Health, the plaintiffs’ memorandum said.
Glunk’s pretrial defense memorandum said that Fledderman had a rough emergence from
anesthesia, resulting in short breathing. Glunk’s memorandum said Glunk and his staff
monitored her, until her breathing decreased even more and an ambulance needed to be
summoned. Glunk then argued that Fledderman was intubated incorrectly by paramedic
Samuel Paolella of the Lafayette Ambulance and Rescue Squad during her transportation
to Montgomery Hospital, causing her oxygen saturation to decline to 64 percent.
McLaughlin said that Glunk changed his theory of the case just before trial from blaming
the ambulance squad to saying that an unavoidable medical problem -- a fat embolism
during the liposuction procedure -- caused Fledderman’s death.
DeStefano also argued in his pretrial defense memorandum that a fat embolism had
caused Fledderman’s death.
“Unfortunately, the plaintiff developed a rare, but recognized complication of the
liposuction procedure -- fat emboli, that led to her death,” DeStefano’s memorandum
Dean F. Murtagh of German Gallagher & Murtagh represented Glunk. I. Steven Levy of
White & Williams represented DeStefano. Both attorneys could not be reached for
Daniel S. Altschuler of Post & Schell represented Lafayette Ambulance and Rescue
Squad and paramedic Samuel Paolella.
Those two defendants got out of the case on a directed verdict, according to interviews.
McLaughlin said the case was vigorously defended, so he wouldn’t have been surprised
at any verdict. Both Glunk and DeStefano testified that they were blameless in
Fledderman’s death, so McLaughlin said the jury had to choose between the two sides
and whom they were going to believe.
McLaughlin said he thinks the defense will appeal, and he will seek delay damages.