CINCINNATI -- A jury on Tuesday found that a Cincinnati spine doctor was negligent in performing surgery on one of his patients and awarded the woman more than $1 million in damages in the first of dozens of lawsuits filed against the missing doctor.
The verdict came following a weeklong trial for Dr. Abubakar Atiq Durrani, who was absent after fleeing to Pakistan last month against a judge's order. A warrant has been issued for his arrest.
Ohio law will require the award to patient Crystal Pierce be capped at $750,000.
Durrani's attorney, Michael Lyon, said that he was "very surprised" by the jury's verdict Tuesday and was considering an appeal.
"I think the jury was angry," Lyon said. "They were not happy that Dr. Durrani was not there. It made it impossible for me to defend it."
He said it was "highly doubtful" that Durrani would return to the U.S., not because of anything he has said but because "he's a fugitive from justice."
The case is the first of dozens of lawsuits against Durrani by former patients in the Cincinnati region.
Durrani, 45, also faces 36 federal criminal charges including health care fraud, lying about health care matters and distributing controlled substances.
The indictment alleges that from 2008 through last year, Durrani performed numerous unnecessary spine surgeries through his private practice in the Cincinnati area and in Florence, Ky., often without waiting for results of pain injections or related therapies.
Durrani would lie to patients and tell them that their medical conditions were urgent, that surgery was needed immediately, and "would often tell a patient that there was a risk of paralysis or the head would fall off if the patient was in a car accident because there was almost nothing attaching the head to the patient's body," according to the federal indictment against him.
He argued to jurors that Pierce was better following Durrani's treatment, while Pierce's attorney, Eric Deters, argued that Durrani performed unnecessary surgery on her that has caused her lasting pain.
Deters did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.