Where have I been?

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 for 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.

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, they would not have received "justice" for their daughter.

Five weeks of trial. 10,000+ pages of documents. Eight witnesses at the scene, eight experts, and a smattering of others, including a lawyer from the Commonwealth and even a custodian of records, a rarity in trials these days.

Final result was the largest punitive damages award rendered in Pennsylvania in conjunction with a medical malpractice case, the fourth largest nationally.

Stepping away from the case, why does a jury award over $15 million in punitive damages? Because they are very angry. Because someone did something very wrong and refused to take responsibility for it.