A jury on Wednesday found in favor of a former cast member of the E! reality show Dr. 90210 in a medical malpractice lawsuit alleging she abandoned a patient who had complications with wounds from breast implant surgery.
A Los Angeles Superior Court jury of six men and six women deliberated for about 90 minutes before finding that Dr. Linda Li was not negligent in her post-surgical care of Jeanine Del Carlo, a fitness instructor, model and singer.
Li declined comment after the verdict, but her attorney, Patricia Dachnke, lauded the jury's decision.
"It was definitely the right result," Dachnke said. "I'm proud to have represented Dr. Li."
Del Carlo's lawyer, Michael Gulden, said his client was hurt by the inability of an expert witness to be present as scheduled and testify on her behalf.
He said the witness would have told jurors that Li should have instructed Del Carlo after the September 2010 surgery to avoid letting shower water hit her wounds and to keep those areas dry for a specified period of time. Del Carlo eventually developed an infection, Gulden said.
Gulden said he had hoped to call a substitute expert witness, but Judge Michelle Rosenblatt ruled against him, saying it was too late in the proceedings.
Del Carlo said another Beverly Hills plastic surgeon, Dr. Stuart Linder, repaired her wounds last year. She said she is hopeful of returning to an active career.
"Fitness instructing pays the bills, but hopefully singing will one day," she said.
Li testified Monday that she did all she could for Del Carlo in the months after she performed the surgery at her office.
Del Carlo sued Li for medical malpractice 15 months later, saying the physician's alleged negligence delayed healing and caused her permanent disfigurement, pain and emotional distress. Del Carlo contended she lost work and a chance to make tens of thousands of dollars as a result.
Del Carlo had a breast lift in 2004, then sought help from Li six years later when the left implant ruptured, according to her court papers. Li replaced both implants, and Del Carlo says she followed all the doctor's instructions.
Del Carlo maintained that she started having problems less than a month later, and that Li was generally indifferent during office visits over an eight- month period after surgery, failing to take her temperature, feel her forehead or take other steps to determine if she had an infection.
Gulden maintained that Li should have asked Del Carlo's permission during a March 2011 visit before suturing her persistent wounds with nylon stitches that required a doctor's removal rather than the type that dissolve.
Gulden told jurors that Li compounded her mistake when she pulled the stitches and changed them to the weaker variety after Del Carlo protested. Li, anxious to get Del Carlo out of her office, did not advise her patient that the switch could be problematic, Gulden said.
Li instead told Del Carlo not to come back if the replacement sutures failed, according to Gulden.
"That evening, the wounds burst back open," he said.
But Dachnke said the stitching decision was up to Li and her professional judgment.
Dachnke also said Li was well-trained as a wound specialist after spending five years as a general surgeon at County-USC Medical Center. Li opened her plastic surgery practice in 2000.
Dr. 90210 aired from 2004-08 and focused on doctors like Li practicing plastic surgery in Beverly Hills. Li's website states she also has appeared on ABC's The View, The Montel Williams Show and on CNN's Larry King Live.