In 2017, 11 days after undergoing heart surgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, actor Bill Paxton died from a stroke. He was 61.

In 2018, Mr. Paxton’s family sued the heart surgeon and the Hospital, alleging that the surgeon had performed a risky, unnecessary surgery without obtaining the actor’s informed consent. On August 20, 2022, just weeks before the trial, the surgeon and Cedars-Sinai agreed to settle the case. The settlement sheds light on four critical behind-the-scenes workings of medical malpractice litigation.

First, well-known physicians and hospitals may be guilty of medical malpractice—just the same as lesser-known providers and facilities.

Second, a surgeon commits medical malpractice by recommending or performing a surgery the patient does not need. Here, you can read about a similar case we brought after a father died from unnecessary rectal surgery.

Third, in recommending an unneeded surgery, surgeons often go out of their way to get and document the patient’s “consent.” But such consent has no legal effect because the patient cannot give actual consent without knowing of the unnecessary risks. The surgeon’s failure to obtain informed consent is itself medical malpractice.

Fourth, physicians and hospitals will often deny fault and drag out the litigation for years before engaging in serious settlement talks. For that reason and others, victims of medical malpractice should rely on experienced counsel capable of taking the case to trial.

Before his untimely death, Mr. Paxton starred in blockbusters such as Apollo 13, Twister, Titanic, Aliens, and True Lies. Read more about the settlement here.

The Bell Law Firm represents clients who have suffered death or catastrophic injury in medical malpractice and other personal injury cases.