Lasik surgery alters the shape of the cornea to eliminate the need to wear glasses. The surgery was pioneered in Bogota, Columbia in the 1950s and over the last two decades, the introduction of laser technology has made it a commonplace and popular choice for tens of thousands of people.
James Dell'Ermo was an executive with a security services business. His vision was good, but at age 47, he needed glasses for distance. To correct his vision he chose a well-known eye doctor in New Jersey. Dr. Joesph Dello Russo has been something of a celebrity on the east coast as attorney David Mazie describes him. Della Russo once performed Lasik surgery live on "Good Morning America" and spent thousands of dollars every year promoting his eye clinic.
The result of surgery was a long way from what Mazie's client had expected. "Mr. Dell'Ermo went from a situation where he kind of needed glasses for distance, to a situation where he is going to need corneal transplants and he is legally blind," says Mazie.
Although thousands of Lasik eye surgeries are done in the US every year, not everyone is a suitable candidate for the procedure. "He was not an appropriate candidate for the procedure, it is not for everyone," adds Mazie.
"Dell'Ermo's vision is now worse than 20/400. Even with corrective lenses, he has only 20/50 vision," says Mazie. "And because of the shape of eye, the contacts he wears pop out several times a day."
The firm used a world-renowned expert on preoperative testing procedures who gave testimony that, given Dell'Ermo's steep corneas, it made him unsuitable for Lasik surgery—something that a Lasik surgeon should have recognized.
Dr. Joesph Dello Russo makes no admission of guilt in the $2.1 million settlement and it was done only for expediency's sake, according to his counsel. However, it stands as the largest Lasik surgery settlement in the history of New Jersey and perhaps in the US.
Mazie has settled several other Lasik surgery malpractice lawsuits against Dr. Della Russo and has a couple still pending.
His firm, Mazie, Slater, Katz & Freeman has a reputation for taking on cases that are large and difficult. Sometimes Mazie and the other lawyers at the firm take on cases that other lawyers turn down. "We like to take on interesting, cutting edge cases that we consider challenging and out of the box," says Mazie.
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Other lawyers had turned the case away, but not Mazie. "If it is a case where we think we can help someone who has been really wronged, and it makes sense for us, then we'll do it," says Mazie.
He makes it all sound so simple. It is simple for a smart lawyer like Mazie.
David Mazie did his undergraduate degree at Rutgers and earned his law degree from George Washington University. He is a senior partner at Mazie, Slater, Katz & Freeman. He was voted the top New Jersey trial attorney three years in a row. He is also a Certified Civil Trial Attorney, a status held by only two percent of New Jersey attorneys.
I HAD LASIK SURGERY DONE 13 YEARS AGO.IT WORKED ABSOLUTELY PERFECT.IN FEBUARY OF 2012,BECAUSE OF MY AGE AND CHANGEING EYESIGHT,I WENT TO GO GET ENHANCMENT DONE.I HADNT BEEN ABLE TO SEE THE COMPUTER AT WORK OR READ ROADSIGNS.MY VISION WAS CONSTANTLY CHANGING.AT ONE TIME I HAD FIVE DIFFERENT PAIRS OF READERS AT WORK TO CHANGE SO I COULD SEE COMPUTER SCREEN.SOMETIMES THEY WOULD WORK FOR AN HOUR OR SO –SOMETIMES ONLY TEN MINUTES.SOMETIMES THEY DIDN’T WORK AT ALL.I WOULD HAVE TO STOP LOOKING AT SCREEN FOR 10-15 MINUTES.
WHEN I WENT TO GET ENHANCMENT DONE,MY EYES WERE CHECKED,I TOLD OPTOMOTRIST WHAT WAS HAPPENING WITH MY EYES.AFTER THE EXAM HE ASKED IF I REALLY WANTED TO GO AHEAD WITH IT BECAUSE MY VISION WAS NEARLY 20-20 THE WAY IT IS.I ASKED HIM THEN WHY I CANT FOCUS ON ANYTHING CLOSE OR NEAR AND WHY IS MY VISION CONSTANTLY CHANGEING.HE MENTIONED MY EYESIGHT WOULDN’T REALLY GET MUCH BETTER BECAUSE OF THE ENHANCEMENT.I TOLD HIM LOOK-IM HAVING A HARD TIME SEEING CLOSE OR FAR AND IF IT EVEN HELPS A LITTLE I WANT TO GO AHEAD WITH IT.SO HE SAID OKAY THEN.
NOW NOT ONCE WAS I TOLD OF IT NOT BEING LASIK –IT WAS PRK.NEVER WAS I TOLD ABOUT THE CRONIC DRY EYE OR OTHER SIDE EFFECTS.I GOT THE PRK DONE AND HAD MADE AN APPOINTMENT FOR APPROX 8 WEEKS LATER FOR EYE CHECK.I COULDN’T MAKE IT TILL ABOUT 12 WEEKS LATER.
WHEN I GOT THERE THE OPTOMOTRIST THAT EXAMINED MY EYES WASN’T THERE.WHEN I ASKED WHERE HE WAS THEY SAID HE WENT TO FAMILY REUNIOUN OR SOMETHING-NO BIG DEAL.I TOLD THEM MY VISION HASN’T GOT ANY BETTER AND I BELIEVED IT WAS GETTING WORSE.THE HALOS WERE STILL THERE/STARBURSTS FROM DIFFERRENT LIGHTING AND MORE ISSUES.I WAS TOLD THEY STILL HEALING BUT LOOKS GOOD.MAKE ANOTHER APPOINTMENT FOR 5-6 WEEKS OUT.WHEN I WENT BACK THE ORIGINAL OPTOMOTRIST WASN’T THERE AGAIN,WHEN I ASKED WHERE HE WAS THEY SAID FAMILY VACATION OR SOMETHING-REALLY DON’T MAKE A DIFFERENCE.I MENTIONED MY EYES WERENT ANY BETTER AND IM STARTING TO SEE FUNNY THINGS-BLURRED IN ONE EYE-SPOTS-FEELS LIKE SAND IN IT ECT ECT.ISSUSE WAS ALWAYS MY LEFT EYE.I WAS TOLD –LOOKS LIKE ITS HEALING REALLY GOOD JUST GOTTA GIVE MORE TIME.DURING THE COURSE OF THESE EYE EXAMS MY VISION WAS GOING FROM 20-30 TO 20-45 TO 20-35.IT VARIED
5-6 WEEKS LATER-SAME THING WITH ORIGINAL OPTOMOTRIST-I FIGURED THEY FIRED HIM FOR SOME REASON AND I NEVER DID SEE HIM THERE AFTER THAT.THE 5TH OR 6TH TIME I WENT BACK THE GUY DOING THE EYE EXAM SAYS HE GOTTA LEAVE FOR A SECOND.I FIGURED HE HAD TO GO TO BATHROOM OR SOMETHING-NO BIG DEAL.HE COMES BACK EXAMINES MY EYES FOR A FEW MORE MINUTES AND SAYS HE HAS TO GO CHECK SOMETHING-I FIGURE WHAT THE HELL IS GOIN ON.HE COMES BACK –EXAMINES MY EYES FOR A BIT AND SAYS HE HAS TO GO CHECK SOMETHING-I ASKED HIM WHAT THE HELL IS GOIN ON.HE SAYS HE IS GOING TO GO GET THE SURGEON WHO DID THE PRK TO COME LOK AT MY EYES BECAUSE HE SEE’S SOMETHING HE ISNT SURE ABOUT.DR.AWAD COMES BACK WITH HIM AFTER A FEW MINUTES AND LOOKS AT MY EYES.AFTER A COUPLE MINUTES HE SAYS IVE GOT THESE CRYSTALS FORMING IN MY EYES.THEY START AROUND THE OUTSIDE AND FILL IN LIKE A WAGON WHEEL.BUT IT WASN’T BECAUSE OF THE LASIK/PRK.AND THAT THE CRYSTALS WILL KEEP FORMING.I SAY-YOUR TELLIN ME IM GOING BLIND AND THEY BOTH SAID YES.I ASKED HOW LONG AND WAS TOLD 3-5 YEARS. DR AWAD WANTED ME TO GO TO HIS OFFICE SO HE COULD LOOK INTO IT BETTER-I THINK HE HAD MORE SPECIFIC EQUIPMENT THERE.I WENT 2-3 TIMES WHEN HE MENTIONED HE THINKS HE KNOWS WHAT IT IS BUT ISNT SURE AND NEEDED TO CHECK WITH SOMEBODY WHO KNOWS MORE THEN HIM.NOW THIS DR AWAD IS RATED PRETTY HIGHLY FROM WHAT I UNDERSTAND AND IM THINKING WHO THE HELL IS HE GOING TO ASK IF HE IS SUPPOSED TO BE ONE OF THE TOP LASIK SURGEONS IN THE UNITED STATES.I DIDN’T WASTE ANY TIME ON THIS PART-WHEN I GOT HOME I CALLED AN ATTORNEY FRIEND,TOLD HIM WHAT WAS GOING ON.EVEN THOUGH IVE BROKEN SO MANY BONES,BEEN IMPALED ON A FENCE,HAD THREE HERNIATED DISC OPERATIONS AND BROKE MY BACK IN THREE PLACES,SHATTERED MY JAW,BROKE ALL MY RIBS-3 OF THEM TWICE,BOTH MY WRIST-ONE TWICE,RIPPED MY EAR OFF,BROKE 2-3 BONES IN MY FOOT,CUT MY LEG OPEN WITH A CHAINSAW,AND SOME OTHER THINGS- AND BEEN IN THE HOSPITAL ON SEVERAL OCCASIONS- I CAN LIVE WITH THEM,BECAUSE I DID THEM TO MYSELF.BUT---IF IM GOING TO LOOSE MY EYESIGHT BECAUSE OF SOMETHING THEY DID I WANT THEM TO PAY DEARLY FOR IT.HE AGREED.HE MADE AN APPOINTMENT FOR ME DOWN AT THE UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA OPTOMOLOGY DEPT IN KAUFFMAN HALL WITH DR KAUFFMAN.WHEN I GOT THERE I SEEN 3 OR 4 DIFFERENT PEOPLE.WAS TOLD DURING EYE EXAM AGAIN MY LEFT EYE IS WORSE THEN THE LEFT.SO I HAD EYE EXAM.THEY MEASURED MY EYE TO SEE IF IT WAS ROUND OR WHATEVER ITS SUPPOSED TO BE.THE TOOK PICTURES OF IT(WHICH ARE REALLY COOL)
AND THE LAST GUY I SEEN WAS DR KAUFFMAN.WHEN HE GOT THERE I STARTED TO TELL HIM WHAT WAS HAPPENING BUT I GOT THE FEELING HE WASN’T LISTENING AT ALL,BECAUSE IN THE MIDDLE OF IT WHEN I WAS EXPLAINING TO HIM-HIS ASSISTANT CAME IN AND WAS CUT OFF.I FIGURED BY TELLING HIM IT MIGHT HELP DIAGNOSIS.THEN I FIGURED HE IS THE BOSS OF THIS PLACE SO REGARDLESS OF WHAT I TELL HIM-HE IS GOING TO LOOK AT THE RESULTS FROM THE OTHER WARDS I WAS IN AND BASE HIS DECISION OFF THAT AND HIS EXAM.WHEN THE EXAM WAS OVER HE SAID IT TAKES 6-8 WEEKS AFTER LASIK SURGERY BEFORE YOUR EYES ARE BETTER-THEY NEED TO HEAL.STARTED TELLIN ME ABOUT HALO’S AND OTHER THINGS.HE ASKED HOW LONG AGO I HAD LASIK.NOW I KNOW HE WASN’T LISTENING.TOLD HIM I KNOW ALL ABOUT THE HALO’S AND THE OTHER ISSUES.AND IM NOT HERE BECAUSE OF THE LASIK BECAUSE I HAD THAT DONE 11 YRS AGO.AND THAT IT WORKED ABSOLUTELY WONDERFUL.I HAVENT HAD ONE COMPLAINT ABOUT IT.IM HERE BECAUSE I HAD THE ENHANCMENT DONE WITH PRK AND MY VISION ISNT ANY BETTER AND HAS GOTTEN WORSE.THEN I WAS TOLD THE PRK SURGERY ISNT QUIET THE SAME AS LASIK AND I TAKES A LITTLE LONGER TO HEAL –CLOSER TO 12-14 WEEKS AND THAT HE HAS HAD PATIENTS ITS TAKEN A LITTLE LONGER THEN THAT.HE ASKED ME HOW LONG AGO I HAD PRK DONE-TOLD HIM 10 MONTHS AGO.DURING THE COURSE OF THIS HIS ASSISTANT WAS BRINIGING IN OTHER TEST RESULTS.HE LEFT FOR A BIT –CAME BACK-LOOKED SOME MORE AT RESULTS/PICS/MEASUREMENTS AND WHATEVER.DURING THIS PERIOD OF TIME HE TOLD ME MY LEFT EYE SEEMS TO BE THE ONE CAUSEING PROBLEM BECAUSE IT IS FAR WORSE THEN THE RIGHT. HE SAID I HAD A PRE-DESECEMENT CORNIAL DYSTROPHY/WHATEVER THE NAME OF IT WAS BECAUSE THERES SEVERAL.HE EXPLAINED TO ME IT IS SO RARE THEY HAVE HAD ONLY 3 PEOPLE AT UNIVERSITY WITH IT-I WAS THE THIRD.SAID I AM 1 IN SOMETHING LIKE 200,000,000 TO GET IT.SAID THEY BELIEVE ITS HEREDITARY,ONE GENE FROM MOTHER AND ONE FROM FATHER BUT EVEN STILL THE CHANCES OF GETTING IT ARE MILLIONS TO ONE-LUCKY ME.HE SAID MY BROTHER AND SISTER HAVE IT TO BUT IT DIDN’T START WITH THEM OR THEY HAVENT REALLY NOTICED IT BECAUSE IT IS SLOW MOVEING.HE SAID IT AFFECTS BOTH YOU EYES AT EXACTLY THE SAME RATE AND THAT I AM GOING BLIND.BEFORE I COULD ASK HOW LONG AND ABOUT OTHER TYPES OF SURGERY A LOT OF PEOPLE NEVER GET ANYTHING DONE BECAUSE WHEN IT GETS THE WORST THE MAJORITY PEOPLE ARE ALREADY DEAD FROM AGE.I WAS UNDER THE IMPRESSION THOUGH THAT BY THE TIME I WOULD BE BLIND I WOULD MOST LIKELY BE LATE 60’S-EARLY 70’S.HE SAID THAT EVEN IF I WAS TO GET SURGERY LIKE A CORNEA TRANSPLANT IT REALLY DOENT HELP BECAUSE ITS THERE AND IT COMES BACK FAST LIKE A YEAR OR SO.NOT ELIGIBLE FOR THAT UNTIL YOUR PRETTY MUCH LEGALLY BLIND.WHEN I ASKED HIM HOW LONG IT WOULD BE BEFORE I WOULD BE BLIND HE SAID HE THOUGHT 5-7 YEARS.WE TALKED A LITTLE MORE AND HE ASKED ME IF I HAD ANY QUESTIONS-WHICH I SURE DID.I SAY,YOU SAID THIS STARTS IN YOUR EARLY 30’S CORRECT AND HE AGREED,HE ASKED HOW OLD I WAS, I SAID 52.NOW IF IM 52 AND THIS STARTS IN YOUR EARLY 30’S,WHY WASN’T THIS NOTICED WHEN I HAD LASIK-WHEN I WAS 42.HE SAID WELL SOMETIMES THE EYE EXAMINER REALLY ISNT LOOKING FOR IT OR MAYBE HE ISNT FAMILIAR WITH IT BLA-BLA-BLA.NOW IT WAS MY TURN TO INTERUPT HIM-SO I SAY OKAY WHATEVER,THE GUY WAS HAVIN A BAD DAY FOR WHATEVER REASON,THE EQUIPMENT WASN’T AS GOOD AS IT IS TODAY-WHATEVER-WHY THE FUCK WASN’T THIS NOTICED 10 MONTHS AGO.I DO GET PRETTY AGGRESSIVE WHEN IM NOT LIKEING WHAT IM HEARING.HESTOPPED FOR A SECOND AND SAID YES IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN NOTICED-EASILY.I SAID ,YOU TOLD ME IT AFFECTS BOTH YOUR EYES THE SAME AND HE SAID YES-ALWAYS-THEN WHY IS MY LEFT EYE 3 TIMES WORSE THEN MY RIGHT-THE EYE THEY DID THE PRK ON. TALKED A MINUTE OR TWO MORE AND HE ASKED ME IF I WANTED ME TO SEND RESULTS OVER TO DR.AWAD.TOLD HIM NO I WANT THEM AND I WILL MAKE COPIES FOR MY OWN RECORDS.HE SAID WELL SOMEBODY HAD TO MAKE APPOINTMENT FOR YOU WAS IT HIM-NO I SAID.WHO MADE APPOINTMENT FOR YOU-MY ATTORNEY I TOLD HIM.CHANGE OF ATTITUDE.HE SAID YOU KNOW,DR AWAD IS A PRETTY GOOD LASIK SURGEON.I TOLD HIM I REALLY DON’T HAVE A PROBLEM WITH HIM.ITS THE GUY WHO DID EXAM-WHY ALL OF A SUDDEN DOESN’T HE WORK THERE ANY LONGER.WAS HE PROPERLY TRAINED.MAYBE HE SCREWED UP OTHER EXAMS AND THEY HAD TO GET RID OF HIM.DR AWAD ONLY WENT OFF THE EYE EXAM RESULTS TO DO THE PRK.HE DID WHAT RESULTS SUGGESTED.I WAS TOLD I WOULD HAVE ALL THE RESULT IN 3-5 DAYS.I ASKED THEM TO MAKE SURE THEY SENT EVERYTHING-PICS EYE EXAM AND MEASUREMENTS AND I WANTED A LETTER FROM DR KAUFFMAN ABOUT THE RESULTS AND WHAT WAS FOUND.I HAD TO SIGN A RELEASE BECAUSE THEY WERENT SENDING INFO TO DR. AWAD-WHICH I DID.I WAITED FOR 2 WEEKS THEN CALLED THEM AND WAS TOLD I NEVER SIGNED RELEASE FORM.TOLD THEM I HAD A COPY IN MY HAND AND IT IS SIGNED.THEY SAID THEY HAD TO SEND ANOTHER ONE.ABOUT AN HOUR LATER I GOT CALL FROM U OF M –FROM SOMEBODY ELSE-IN RECORDS-SAYING THEY HAVE THE ORIGINAL COPY AND ARE SENDIN OUT TODAY.THEY NEVER SENT THE PICS SO I CALLED BACK AND GOT THEM ABOUT A WEEK LATER.
NOW IF DR KAUFFMAN COULD TELL ME EXACTLY WHAT TYPE OF PRE-DESCEMENT CORNEAL DYSTROPHY THIS WAS,THE ODDS OF ME GETTING IT,HOW LONG BEFORE I LOOSE MY SIGHT, ECT-ECT.THEN WHY ON THE LETTER HE SENT IT ALL OF A SUDDEN IS A CORNEAL DYSTROPHY BUT IS UNDETERMINED WHAT KIND IT IS.IT SAYS IT’S A PROGGRESSIVE DISEASE.IT SAYS AND I WAS TOLD BY HIM THAT THERE IS A GOOD CHANCE THE PRK IS PART OF THE ISSUE.THEN THE LETTER SAYS MY EYESIGHT WONT GET ANY WORSE THEN WHAT IT IS.AGAIN WAIT A SECOND.ITS A PROGGRESSIVE DISEASE-HOW CAN IT NOT GET WORSE.I HAVE ALL THE RESULTS/PICS AND WHATEVER.MY EYESIGHT IS GETTING WORSE.MY ATTORNEYSEND EVERYTHING OVER TO AN ATTORNEY WHO IS SUPPOSEDLY GOOD AT MALPRACTICE LAWSUITS.HE HAD THE PAPERWORK FOR 3-4 MONTHS THEN WHEN I ASKED ABOUT IT I GOT IT BACK A WEEK LATER WITH A LETTER EXPLAINING THEY LOOKED AT IT BUT IT SAYS IT HEREDITARY AND THERE ISNT REALLY A CASE.THEY NEVER SENT EXAMS TO AN OPTOMOTRIST THEY JUST READ THE LETTER FROM DR KAUFFMAN AND SAID NO CASE.I NEED HELP WITH THIS.
NOW LET ME EXPLAIN WHERE IM AT IN LIFE.IVE GOT BILLS FROM THE SKIN CANCER I STILL HAVE TO PAY.I BORROWED $15,000 FROM MY FATHER TO STOP A FORECLOSURE 2 YRS AGO.I JUST STOPPED A SECOND FORECLOSURE.
AT WORK I GET SALARY AND COMMISSION AND WITH THIS ECONOMY AND THE HOUSEING INDUSTRY THE WAY IT IS- I HAVENT GOT A COMMISSION CHECK IN 4 YRS.THEN—I GOT LAID OFF FROM WORK TWO DAYS AFTER THE NEW MORTAGE PAYMENT PAPERWORK SHOWED UP AT MY DOOR.I HAVE NO HEALTH INSURANCE AND I STILL HAVE SOME MORE SPOTS THAT NEED TO BE CHECKED FOR CANCER ALONG WITH THE MEDICAL BILLS I ALREADY HAVE.IF YOUR FIRM IS WILLING TO LOOK AT THE PAPERWORK I HAVE I WOULD BE HAPPY TO SEND IT TO YOU.I DON’T KNOW HOW YOU WORK BUT IM NOT ABLE TO PAY A RETAINER.IVE BEEN SOMEWHAT KEEPING A RECORD OF WHATS BEEN HAPPENING TO MY EYES- I MAIL MYSELF WHEN I NOTICE THINGS.IM WONDERING ABOUT RIDING MY BIKE AT NIGHT.ITS GETTING HARDER TO SEE BECAUSE OF THE GLARE.
THINGS I SEE-AT DIFFERENT TIMES AT DIFFERENT LENGTHS
HALO’S HALF THE LENGTH OF TELEPHONE POLES
STARBURSTS FROM TAIL LIGHTS-COLORED LIGHTS AND FROM CERTAIN WHITE LIGHT
AT TIMES-IF I COULD TAKE A CHROME RING FROM AROUND A HEADLIGHT-FIT IT IN MY LEFT EYE AND IN THE CENTER OF THAT MY VISION IS BLURRED ALONG WITH THE CHROME RING WAVEING AROUND.
LOOKS LIKE SOMEBODY DROPPED WATER IN MY EYE FOR A COUPLE MINUTES
MAJOR GLARE WHEN HEADLIGHTS REFLECT OFF ROADSIGNS.I CANT READ THEM SOMETIMES BECAUSE OF IT UNTIL IM RIGHT ON TOP OF THEM BUT I CANT TURN-TO CLOSE
IT JUST GOES BLURRY FOR A BIT-SAND IN EYE OR IT ITCHES
EXTREME DRY EYE-FEELS LIKE MY LID IS STUCK
BLACK OR WHITE SPOTS AND FLASHES—STILL MORE ISSUES.
ONE OF THE WORSE DAYS I HAD WAS THANKSGIVING.ME AND A FRIEND DROVE TO MY FOLKS-I DROVE.THANK GOD WE DIDN’T TAKE THE BIKES.IT STARTED TO SNOW REALLY HARD,WIND WAS BLOWING ABOUT 30-40 MPH.
NOW ON THE WAY HOME WITH THE LIGHTS REFLECTING OFF THE SNOWFLAKES COMEING DOWN WASN’T HARD ENUFF,EVERYTIME WE WENT BY A LIGHT POST-25 FT HALO’S.RED STARBURSTS FROM THE TAILIGHTS IN FRONT OF US AND EVERTYTIME A CAR CAME TOWARDS US HALO’S FROM THEIR HEADLIGHTS-ALL AT SAME TIME ALONG WITH ANY NEON SIGNS-NEON IS A HUGE GLARE.LOOKED LIKE SOMEBODY DROPPING GLITTER OVER MY HEAD SHOOTING COLORED FIREWORKS POINTING DIFFERENT COLORED FLASHLIGHTS AT ME-DOUBLE VISION ON THE COLORED LIGHTS SOMETIMES
ANYWAYS-IF YOU THINK YOU CAN HELP ME PLEASE CALL ME
This article is almost three years old. Needless to say, the pending cases are no longer pending. Our writer has followed up with Attorney Mazie, who informed us that he settled maybe five cases against Dr. Russo regarding Lasik surgery issues, and at present has no further pending cases.
Please pull down any reference to Dr. Dello Russo or provide information to my email address as to what are the "couple" of law suits pending.