A judge in California’s LA County Superior Court overturned a February jury verdict that fined Carlo and Priscilla Vaccarezza more than $1.5 million for veterinary negligence and negligent damages to the patient. with Equine Medical Center and veterinarian Vince Baker, according to Thursday’s ruling.
The case revolved around Baker’s treatment of Vaccarezza-owned and trained Alexis, before she finished ninth in the 2014 GI Filly & Mare Sprint in Santa Anita.
“I think it’s a great result. Dr. Baker is a wonderful veterinarian,” said attorney Lisa Brown, who represented Baker. “This case should never have been filed and it never got this far. It’s a pity that this is the approach Vaccarezzas took. ”
According to James Morgan, who represents Vaccarezzas, the plaintiffs will appeal the ruling.
“We believe in an impartial jury review of all of the original evidence that led to a verdict in Vaccarezzas’ favor. We intend to request the assistance of the appeals court to confirm the merits of the jury’s well-thought-out findings,” Morgan wrote in a statement.
Two days before the Breeders’ Cup race, Baker was treated with approved pre-race drugs – including anti-inflammatory Ketofen, electrolytes and a bottle of vitamins – intravenously into Little Alexis’ left vessel, according to the jury’s verdict.
A day later, a lump appeared on Little Alexis’ neck at the site of the catheterization. She also raised her temperature.
Baker treated the horse’s elevated temperature and drew blood for testing. On the morning of the race, Little Alexis’ temperature had dropped and Baker had set her free to race.
However, after the race, Little Alexis’ condition deteriorated, preventing her from flying from California to the Fasig-Tipton November Sale in Kentucky as planned. She was valued at $1.5 million as a race-winning prospect.
Adept at coaching, Little Alexis never competed again for decentralized funds, and was eventually sold for $440,000.
Vaccarezzas’ original complaint was filed in 2015 and alleges medical and general malpractice. Vaccarezza also claims that months after filing the initial complaint, he learned that Little Alexis’ blood test results taken the morning before the race showed abnormalities.
Vaccarezza claimed that Baker failed to inform him of the abnormal blood test results and that his “standard of care” for Little Alexis was not appropriate for the veterinary health profession.
In February, a 12-person jury sided with the plaintiffs, awarding them $1.06 million plus punitive damages, totaling more than $1.5 million.
The defendants in the case then filed two motions after the trial, one for a new trial and one for a Judgment Regardless of Sentencing.
In Thursday’s ruling, Judge Richard Burdge reversed the jury’s verdict, writing that “Plaints did not present substantial evidence that a normally skilled veterinarian would treat treated the facts of this case differently and did not establish an appropriate, recognized standard of care in California at the appropriate time. Therefore, the finding of veterinary malpractice was not supported by substantial evidence and the JNOV petition was approved”.
Judge Burdge also rejected the request for a new trial. According to Morgan, the judge also rejected the motion to reduce damages.
Central to Burdge’s assessment of the ruling was that he found a key expert witness for Vaccarezzas that testified to individual veterinary standards rather than to the standards of care of California veterinarians as a whole. .
During the February trial, veterinarian Michael Chovanes said, for example, that a key indicator in a blood test – related to the SAA value, which measures a protein synthesized by the liver – spiked suddenly. when it comes to inflammation – has increased significantly.
This is one of the reasons why little Alexis should have been scratched from the Breeders’ Cup, Chovanes testified at the February court hearing, calling the decision to dispose of her a “significant risk.”
However, in his Thursday ruling, Judge Burdge wrote that Chovanes “has never been asked, and he has not testified, that essentially every ‘veterinarian has skill and knowledge’ common sense from the relevant community’ would give the same answer or balance the risks and benefits involved in the same way. “
Judge Burdge added in the written ruling: “If another qualified practitioner in the exercise of professional judgment could have answered that question differently, Dr. a standard that any other practitioner must adhere to at all times.”
Judge Burdge’s ruling was based on relatively limited information, while the appeals court will have access to the full transcript of the trial, Morgan said in a phone call.
“I can’t blame the court for not having a full copy of the transcript. He calls it the way he sees it. The jurors called it the way they saw it. And I have confidence in the court’s appeals process,” said Morgan, who added that Vaccarezzas has yet to file an appeal and that such a trial “is not going to happen anytime soon”.
According to Brown, the jury’s initial verdict was “inconsistent” with the law, because expert testimony, based on “personal preference,” was not sufficient to determine liability.
“They ignored evidence that the horse returned to racing and there was no evidence of any collapse in the [Little Alexis’s] Brown said.