More than 350 lawsuits have been filed against Richard David Heekin, MD, accusing the Florida orthopedic surgeon of performing hip and knee replacements while exhibiting symptoms of a neurological disorder. Hundreds of patients who Dr. Heekin operated on between 2016 and his retirement in 2020 allegedly suffered debilitating injuries, according to court documents. One patient, 70-year-old Lucinda Bonk, died after a hip replacement during which Dr. Heekin reportedly fractured her femur.
Court documents filed to seek punitive damages for the patients list a sampling of the accusations leveled against Dr. Heekin, including:
- Placing screws in hips and knees that extended well beyond the bone, causing patients significant pain.
- Performing a revision surgery to correct a problem with bone cement on a patient whose original surgery did not include cement.
- Causing nerve damage to a hip replacement patient that resulted in a permanent drop foot.
- Implanting the hardware of an otherwise routine hip replacement 90 degrees in the wrong direction.
- Choosing the wrong component for a hip replacement that resulted in a patient’s leg being shortened.
- Performing surgery on a patient with obvious signs of infection, which resulted in eight subsequent procedures to fix.
- Placing parts for a hip replacement wrongly in a patient’s pelvis, which required breaking the pelvis in order to retrieve the parts.
- Causing multiple complications on multiple patients in a single day.
Dr. Heekin’s clinic St. Vincent’s Medical Center (SVMC) and Ascension St. Vincent’s Hospital Riverside in Jacksonville are also named as defendants in the lawsuits. "The totality of the evidence demonstrates that SVMC was on notice and had full knowledge for years that its most voluminous orthopedic surgeon was no longer fit to perform surgery," state the court documents. "SVMC made a choice to actively and intentionally conceal this information from unsuspecting patients who were severely injured over a period of several years."
The lawsuits contend that SVMC leadership was aware of Dr. Heekin’s condition and allowed him to continue to perform a high volume of surgeries. He had to be reminded several times in the OR about what had to be done during surgeries, according to the court documents, which say several physicians, nurses and patients voiced concerns about Dr. Heekin’s condition to SVMC managers on numerous occasions. SVMC allegedly allowed him to continue performing surgeries, forcing surgical team members to work with him despite their protests.
Additional lawsuits against Dr. Heekin are expected to be filed soon, and the list could grow to as many as 500, says Daniel Harwin, attorney for the patients. The trial for the first six lawsuits is scheduled to begin next summer.
J. Brent Allen, the attorney for St. Vincent’s, declined comment. Dr. Heekin’s attorney Jeptha Barbour did not respond to requests for comment.Adam Taylor