Biggest personal injury verdict awarded in Fresno County history

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Silvino Perez went into CRMC needing heart surgery in 2012 and he never really came out. (KFSN)

Silvino Perez went into Community Regional Medical Center in Downtown Fresno needing heart surgery in 2012 and he never really came out.

Six years later, he hasn't woken up.

Investigators say the surgeon, Dr. Pervaiz Chaudhry, left before finishing the operation by closing the 70-year-old's chest.

"We were robbed of my dad and my dad was robbed of his life," said the victim's son, Cris Arteaga.

Months later, the California Department of Public Health fined the hospital $175,000 without naming the patient.

In a 2014 interview with Action News, Dr. Chaudhry still denied doing anything wrong, "I completed the surgery. I was in the operating room. Everything was done. Chest was closed."

Family members got a mysterious call after news reports about the fine telling them the stories were about Perez.

"Oh my God, without the whistleblower, this case wouldn't have come about," said Arteaga.

Hospital employee James Robillard tipped them off anonymously at the time, but on Monday, he spoke to Action News about his role in the case. "I just could not see myself taking care of any more patients who were being harmed like this without saying something," said Robillard.

Attorneys in the medical malpractice trial against Dr. Chaudhry say Robillard's testimony was critical in a jury awarding the family $55.6 million in general damages Monday.

"Hopefully this verdict sends a message to the medical community," said Jeff Mitchell, the attorney for the family.

Jurors are still considering punitive damages against Dr. Chaudhry, but attorneys tell Action News, they suspect they'll never get him to pay.

His attorneys say the doctor now has a net worth of only $131,000 and he's out of the country, in Pakistan, where they think he might just stay.

"This was the first of many cases against both him and the hospital," said Steve Heimberg, the attorney for Dr. Chaudhry.

CRMC reached a settlement with Perez's family before this trial, but still faces at least five more lawsuits related to Dr. Chaudhry's performance and one more from the whistleblower.

"I lost my job after being there for over 30 years and that was a huge blow," said Robillard.

The hospital has defended the firing of Robillard, saying he violated patient privacy laws.
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crimedoctorscommunity regional medical centerhealth carehealthFresno - Downtown
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