Widower wins $3.8M liposuction-death case against Eagle doctor

Krystal and Charles Ballard.
Krystal and Charles Ballard.

The Idaho Supreme Court ruled Thursday that an Eagle doctor and his “med spa” must pay $3.8 million in a lawsuit brought by a man whose wife died after undergoing liposuction.

Charles Ballard sued Silk Touch Laser and its owner, anesthesiologist Brian Kerr, for wrongful death and medical malpractice.

Krystal Ballard went through a liposection and fat-transfer procedure at the med spa in Eagle in 2010. She died less than a week later from septic shock caused by bacteria in her right buttock.

The type of bacteria was unknown, according to the Idaho Supreme Court opinion.

Charles Ballard, who was then stationed at Mountain Home Air Force Base, sued. He alleged the bacteria that killed his wife entered her body during the procedure. He argued that reusable medical equipment used on her was not properly disinfected and sterilized.

The case first went to court in November 2013 but ended in mistrial. The case again went to court in September 2014, and the jury sided with Ballard, concluding that Kerr and Silk Touch acted recklessly. The jury awarded Ballard $2.54 million in economic damages and $1.25 million in noneconomic damages.

Silk Touch appealed, challenging several of District Judge Deborah Bail’s court’s evidentiary rulings, the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the verdict, several of the jury instructions, and the district court’s award of costs and attorney fees.

Silk Touch also argued that the verdict should be overturned because Bail allowed jurors to submit questions to witnesses and made improper comments on the evidence during the trial.

The Idaho Supreme Court opinion sent the issue of attorney fees back to district court to reconsider.

“We are pleased with today’s decision, which affirms the verdict reached by an Ada County jury in this lawsuit,” said Scott McKay, attorney for Ballard.

Kerr told the Idaho Statesman that patients over the years have asked him about the case, but it has not affected his business. He said the medi spa had no prior incidences of infections like Ballard’s, and he believes the clinic properly disinfected and sterilized its equipment.

“One of the things that kind of gets lost in this is the patient,” Kerr said. “And I certainly feel badly for Charles and his loss — and certainly the passing of Krystal. I don’t want to, as I make comments, I don’t want to be at all disparaging about her. ... I think my sadness is I wish that she had done what we had asked her to do [for infection prevention], and the only thing we have changed about our practice is to put more of an emphasis on that.”

Audrey Dutton: 208-377-6448, @IDS_Audrey