Medical Malpractice

Malpractice: the Case of the Roaming Belly Button

Virginia O’Hare, a middle-aged divorcée, went to Dr. Howard Bellin for abdominoplasty in 1974. Bellin had previously worked on O’Hare’s nose and eyelids, and she had been pleased with the results. But after the stomach operation, O’Hare was irate to find her bellybutton off-center by 2½ inches. Dr. Bellin maintained it was only half an inch to the right, a cosmetically acceptable result.

O’Hare brought the matter to court where her lawyer, Theodore Friedman, described the slightly off-center navel as “a large deformed hole” that had caused O’Hare significant emotional distress and professional disruption. Ms. O’Hare ran an employment agency.

The jury awarded O’Hare $854,000, but lawyers for both sides reached a settlement of $200,000—a move O’Hare’s attorneys accepted in order to block an appeal that could have eliminated the award entirely.

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