Insurance paid $1 million after a Kendall surgery death. Here’s what the doctor will pay

Three years after a 72-year-old lung surgery patient died at then-Kendall Regional Medical Center — and two and a half years after an anesthesiologist’s insurance paid $1 million — that doctor learned his punishment from Florida’s Board of Medicine.

Dr. Caleb Stalls will pay a $10,000 fine plus $5,853 of Florida Department of Health investigation and case costs. Stalls also will have to take three five-hour continuing medical education courses: anesthesiology, airway management and risk management.

This is the first disciplinary action against the Florida license Stalls has held since June 2019. Though Stalls’ Florida license profile lists licenses in three other states, online checks of New Mexico (expired in 2018), Illinois (temporary license for 2015-16) and Connecticut (inactive license status, expired in 2020) say Florida’s his only current license.

His Florida license address remains HCA Florida Kendall, the former Kendall Regional.

Airway management ranked as the key problem, according to the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation’s entry on the $1 million insurance payout by EmCare Holdings. Under “Misdiagnosis, if any, of patient’s condition,” the entry states, “Alleged failure to properly secure airway.”

That’s also what was stated on the Department of Health’s administrative complaint.

Lung surgery in Kendall

The complaint says Patient 1’s medical history included hypertension, diabetes, cancer in his larynx and a “foreign body” in his right lung. He came to Kendall Regional Medical Center, now known as HCA Florida Kendall Hospital, with shortness of breath and a collapsed right lung.

Stalls was the anesthesiologist for the bronchoscopy, a procedure to look inside the lungs and air passages. After the bronchoscope was taken out, Patient 1 began suffering temporary breathing pauses, apnea, “which required respiratory assistance.”

Stalls’ attempts at facial bag ventilation and intubation didn’t solve the problem.

“[Stalls] failed to administer Naloxone to attempt to restore spontaneous ventilation in an apneic patient,” the complaint said. “[Stalls] failed to secure an adequate airway which appropriately addressed (Patient 1’s) respiratory distress and loss of airway. [Stalls] failed to have an effective preformulated plan for addressing respiratory distress or loss of airway.”

The complaint said Patient 1 went into cardiac arrest and died “due to respiratory failure.”