Two years ago, Ricardo Quarrie, a cardiothoracic fellow at Yale New Haven Hospital, was sued by a former patient who accused him of covering up a surgical mistake. After major news outlets picked up the story, the lawsuit rose to the top of the Google search results for Quarrie’s name, damaging his career prospects and turning him into a pariah.
But last month, Quarrie was exonerated, and Joel Faxon, the lawyer representing the patient who sued, published a statement retracting the accusations.
“Before now, in the public’s eye, I was this person that [Faxon] painted me to be: someone who lied and tried to deceive patients — none of which was true,” Quarrie said. “I’m glad that that has been clarified, and I just want to move on with my life.”
Now, he is focused on recovering financially and emotionally. Despite the retraction of the accusations, Quarrie said, they continue to damage his career because potential employers know that patients who Google his name will immediately see stories accusing him of the coverup. He is currently paying $900 a month to an online reputation company, BrandYourself, to help suppress the negative stories about him online.
In May 2015, Quarrie performed a procedure with cardiothoracic surgeon Anthony Kim, who now works at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, at Yale New Haven Hospital to remove a precancerous lesion from the eighth rib of a patient named Deborah Craven. But the physicians mistakenly removed part of Craven’s seventh rib, forcing her to undergo a second surgery the next day. The lawsuit accused Quarrie of trying to cover up the mistake by telling Craven that, in fact, he had simply not removed enough of her eighth rib during the first surgery.
In the July 2018 statement — which Quarrie and his attorney released to the public — Faxon acknowledged that Quarrie was in fact not involved in removing the incorrect rib and that it was another health care practitioner who lied to the patient.
While Quarrie and Kim were named as defendants in the Craven’s original lawsuit, she quickly dropped it, instead suing the Yale School of Medicine and Yale New Haven Hospital. About a year ago, during the discovery process in the court proceedings, Faxon found that the allegations against Quarrie were false. The hospital settled the suit last year, and Quarrie spent months negotiating with Faxon to obtain the statement, Quarrie said. Faxon eventually agreed to release the statement to him on the condition that Quarrie wouldn’t counter-sue.
In addition to alleging a cover-up, the original lawsuit claimed that Quarrie was involved in the second surgery even though Craven’s husband requested that he not participate. The complaint alleged that the hospital had engaged in unfair trade practice — or the use of deceptive, fraudulent or unethical methods to obtain business.
Craven has “gotten to the point where there’s only so much you can take,” Faxon told the News in 2016. “Had they come to her before and said, ‘Look we made a mistake, we want to fix the mistake, here’s what happened, everything is going to be alright’ — if that had occurred at Yale, this never would have resulted in a lawsuit. Only the deceit, cover-up and lying after the fact in addition to that — that made her blood boil to the point where she said, ‘Something has to be done here.’”
At the time, Faxon claimed that the doctors elected to perform the surgery despite defective radiology equipment that prevented them from pinpointing the correct rib. The eighth rib had been marked with a metal coil and dye, but the equipment used to detect the dye was “broken or busted or defective,” Faxon said in 2016. Following the removal of part of the seventh rib, he said at the time, Craven experienced severe pain because the coil rubbed against her back.
Although the hospital acknowledged in a 2016 statement that surgeons had made an error, it defended its practices and disputed Craven’s claims, arguing that she was notified of the mistake when it occurred.
In the July statement, Faxon said he found out during discovery that the accusations were inaccurate. Quarrie was not the surgeon who removed part of the wrong rib in Craven’s first surgery, and he never communicated with Craven about the surgery, Faxon wrote.
During the discovery process, Craven instead changed her account, accusing two other Yale health care professionals, a physician’s assistant and a different doctor, of lying to her. Asked by CNN why he originally thought Quarrie had been responsible for the cover-up, Faxon said he couldn’t comment due to a confidentiality agreement with Yale.
Craven does not plan to take legal action against Kim, Faxon told the News this week. “Dr. Kim and Dr. Quarrie both worked for Yale as employees, and Yale took full financial responsibility for them, and the case was settled in full,” Faxon said in a statement to the News.
Yale New Haven Hospital does not comment on settled cases, hospital spokesman Mark D’Antonio said last week.
According to Anupaum Jena, professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School, Malpractice lawsuits can affect more than just a doctor’s career. Jena published a study in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2011 that found physicians in Quarrie’s field have approximately a 20 percent chance of facing a malpractice claim annually.
“Claims can take four to five years to revolve,” Jena explained. “That wears on your mind. It’s easy to estimate defense costs or changes in malpractice premiums. It’s less easy to measure reputation and the effect on the psychic well-being of a person.”
Although Quarrie’s reputation has been damaged, the lawsuit and ensuing negative publicity have not affected his performance, he said. In 2016, he left Yale as scheduled at the end of his fellowship and currently works at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation.
“The story did not define me,” he said. “It may have colored how people looked at me before they got to know me, but it didn’t affect my work or my performance, and therefore did not affect how people treated me.”