Five members of a six-panel jury Wednesday determined that Grasmere plastic surgeon Dr. Keith S. Berman botched a March 2003 breast lift surgery that left Ms. Alaimo with four “double-bubble deformities” and awarded the 46-year-old Willowbrook mother of two $3.5 million in damages.
With the exception of a lone holdout who found the doctor was not at fault, the jurors gave Ms. Alaimo $1 million for pain and suffering since she went under Dr. Berman’s knife on March 8, 2003, and $2.5 million for future pain and suffering she will endure for the next 35 years.
The jury spent nine hours Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning before reaching their verdict and bringing the civil trial at state Supreme Court, St. George, to a close after more than a week of listening to testimony from Dr. Berman, Ms. Alaimo, and plastic surgeons who testified as expert witnesses for both parties.
Ms. Alaimo, who spurred the trial with a $5 million lawsuit against Dr. Berman, sat stunned when the multi-million-dollar verdict was read.
"I really don’t believe that’s what (the jury) said,” Ms. Alaimo said through a beaming smile outside the courtroom. “I was like, thank God somebody actually believes me.”
Dr. Berman, who works out of an office at 1050 Hylan Blvd., was not present in the courtroom for the verdict.
His attorney, Jerry Giardina, declined comment afterward.
Ms. Alaimo was referred to Dr. Berman through the online referral service My Choice Medical when she sought a breast lift in 2003 at the age of 40 after giving birth twice and breastfeeding both of her children.
During the first consultation session, Ms. Alaimo said Dr. Berman showed her a book of pictures depicting women with successful breast augmentation surgeries and told her, “You’re going to look beautiful.”
Ms. Alaimo maintained that Dr. Berman never consulted her on the risks involved prior to the surgery, and that she was given a 12-page disclaimer and consent package to sign as she was being “rushed” into the operating room on the morning of the operation.
Dr. Berman testified that he initially planned to perform a Level II breast lift procedure, but shifted to a Level I procedure while Ms. Alaimo was on the operating table and slipped the implant “into the only place it would fit.”
The surgery left Ms. Alaimo with scarred and disfigured “double-bubble” breasts that, with two swollen bubbles one on top of the other, gave her the appearance of having four breasts.
After two failed follow-up corrective procedures – the first by Dr. Berman and the second by Dr. Roger Mixter in Milwaukee, where she was sent all-expenses paid by My Choice Medical – Ms. Alaimo said she went into a deep depression that destroyed her 17-year marriage because she refused to undress in front of her husband.
After the verdict, Ms. Alaimo was breathing easier and talking excitedly about using the money to help her family.
“My kids are going to go to the nicest schools,” said Ms. Alaimo, a former tanning salon owner who is currently unemployed.
Other victims of bad plastic surgeries now have a ray of light with this verdict, she noted.
“It was a pretty tough trial to endure, to have people see pictures of my nude breasts,” Ms. Alaimo said. “For (the jurors) to recognize this, they validated it for me – I do really have a problem and they validated it.
“I just hope there’s somebody else out there that doesn’t have to hide now,” she added. “I hope this does give other women the courage to step forward to say something happened. They shouldn’t have to hide behind the big scarves and the big turtlenecks.”
I got kicked out of Barnes & Nobles for putting all the bibles in the fiction section.