A lawsuit can now proceed against Gerard Varlotta, a ring doctor for the 2013 bout that left heavyweight boxer Magomed Abdusalamov with permanent brain damage, after a New York State Supreme Court judge reversed her earlier dismissal of the suit.
In a ruling last week on an appeal of her September 2018 decision, Judge Debra Silber denied Varlotta summary judgment in the medical malpractice case, citing key differences on the facts in depositions of the two sides' expert witnesses. Varlotta again will be one of three defendants -- with ring doctors Anthony Curreri and Osric King -- in the suit brought on behalf of Abdusalamov and his family.
In 2017, the plaintiffs received a record-setting $22 million personal injury settlement from the state in the Court of Claims. Their lawyer for both cases, Paul Edelstein, told ESPN's Outside the Lines that Varlotta's reinstatement to the suit against the doctors means "we will finally get our chance to present the case to a jury so that we could expose in a public setting how poor the treatment was for this professional athlete."
Varlotta's attorney has not responded to phone and email messages seeking comment for this story.
Abdusalamov, then 32, and Mike Perez both entered the ring undefeated for their Nov. 2, 2013, fight on HBO in the Theater at Madison Square Garden. Perez landed 312 punches to Abdusalamov's 248 and won a unanimous 10-round decision that left the native of the Russian Republic of Dagestan with a bloodied and swollen face.
In the dressing room after the fight, Varlotta and Curreri examined Abdusalamov, sutured a gash above his left eye, cleared him to leave and advised him to see a doctor within a week of returning to his Florida home, so he could have the stitches removed and get X-rays of a suspected facial fracture. The fighter's handlers told OTL they heard Abdusalamov say during the postfight exam that his head hurt.
The doctors, who were working for the state athletic commission, did not recommend that Abdusalamov go to a hospital that night, although they had an ambulance at their disposal.
After the doctors left the room -- but before Abdusalamov did -- a fight inspector saw blood in his urine sample and suggested that the boxer's handlers take him by taxi to a hospital.
Surveillance video captured an increasingly unsteady Abdusalamov outside the Garden, vomiting on the curb, when his interpreter was trying to hail a cab. After he got to a hospital emergency room, he lost consciousness. A CT scan revealed a brain bleed, he underwent emergency surgery, suffered multiple strokes and was in a coma for weeks.
More than five years later, the married father of three girls remains paralyzed on his right side and severely limited in his ability to communicate.
A 2016 report by the state inspector general took the athletic commission to task for inadequate postfight emergency plans and failing to properly communicate with Abdusalamov and his team, who were not told about the available ambulance. The 32-month investigation found systemic problems with the commission and recommended numerous reforms.
Said Edelstein of the ongoing suit against the doctors: "We are hoping that a trial exposes how little care is given to athletes involved in combat sports, and it will serve to improve the care that they receive."