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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, April 9, 2002

Breast-implant surgery damages overturned

By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer

The Hawai'i Supreme Court has overturned a 1999 jury's award of $676,700 in punitive damages to a woman who said she was permanently disfigured by breast-implant surgery performed by a Honolulu doctor.

Janie Ditto, a former bar hostess, filed the medical malpractice suit in 1989 against Dr. John McCurdy Jr. Ditto had her breasts enlarged in 1986, but complications required several follow-up operations, including removal of the implants.

Ditto sued McCurdy, accusing him of lacking the training, knowledge or skill to place the implants or deal with complications. McCurdy was then an ear, nose and throat specialist who had performed breast augmentation surgery.

In 1992, a Circuit Court jury awarded Ditto $1 million in general and special damages, $600,000 in punitive damages and $400,000 for fraudulent conduct. On appeal, the state Supreme Court threw out the fraud judgment and ordered a new trial on the punitive damages.

At the 1999 trial, a jury awarded Ditto $676,700 in punitive damages, which again was appealed. McCurdy argued that references to the earlier Supreme Court ruling should not have been allowed.

In a 4-1 ruling, the state Supreme Court agreed, threw out the punitive damage award and ordered a new trial.