Jury Awards $5M to Track Star in Medical Lawsuit

Suit alleged device meant to heal caused injuries instead

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A medical product that's been used by athletes and orthopedic patients for years is under scrutiny after a San Diego jury delivered a $5 million compensatory judgment against the California company behind it and a high profile doctor.

    A former San Diego track star sued Breg international and her doctor, David Chao for malpractice after she says her skin began to die after using the product called "Polar Care 500."

    Dr. Chao is also the San Diego Charger's team doctor and majority partner of Oasis surgical center.

    The jury decided Chao's negligence was a “substantial factor” in causing "harm” to Whitney Engler.

    The jury also believed Breg was negligent in the design of the Polar Care 500 device, which acts as a consistent cold therapy for injuries and surgical wounds.

    Engler had to have numerous reconstructive surgeries on her leg and says she will need two more.

    The jury will consider punitive damages early next week.

    Late Thursday, Chao's attorney Robert Frank gave NBC 7 San Diego the following statement regarding this case:

    "Everyone agreed that the surgery doctor Chao performed on Ms. Engler was successful as she quickly returned to full function of her knee and returned to sports, qualifying for CIF competition. This case was primarily a products liability case in which Dr. Chao used the Breg company Polar Care [500] device as recommended and exactly like thousands of other doctors nationwide, including Ms. Engler's expert's own partner."

    Breg International hasn’t responded to our interview requests, but issued a statement several months ago when the trial began.

    It says, in part, "The Polar Care cold therapy device has an extremely strong safety record of effectively helping people treat their injuries. Doctors and hospitals across the country use them as a valuable treatment option to support patients with their recovery following injury or surgery."

    NBC 7 San Diego also asked the FDA, the agency in charge of monitoring the safety of medical products, for a comment. We haven't heard anything back at this time.

    The punitive phase of this trial begins on Tuesday and we will continue to update you on this story as we gather new information.

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