MedMal Defense Verdict ◦ Health Care
June 11, 2012
Douglas R. Lewis, Jeff Ryan, and Kimberly K. Bocell obtained a unanimous defense verdict on behalf of a board-certified spine surgeon. The case was brought by a woman claiming that three cervical spine surgeries performed on her by Defendant caused nerve root damage resulting in a permanent C7 radiculopathy and a chronic pain condition called Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) or Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD). Plaintiff, a former registered nurse, presented to Defendant with symptomatic cervical spine pathology at C5-C6 and C6-C7. After failure of conservative treatment to relieve Plaintiff’s symptoms, Defendant performed an initial surgery on Plaintiff with a partial decompression of the nerve root at C6-C7 and fusion of C5-C6. He was not able to completely decompress the nerve root at C6-C7 because of excessive epidural bleeding during surgery. Plaintiff’s pain persisted following the initial surgery; thus, Defendant performed a second surgery to fuse C6-C7 with a bone graft. Plaintiff’s symptoms significantly improved immediately following surgery. However, she ultimately became symptomatic again. A CT-myelogram of the cervical spine showed that the bone graft at C6-C7 placed during the second surgery had moved. After conservative treatment again failed to alleviate Plaintiff’s symptoms, Defendant took her back to surgery a third time to redo the fusion at C6-C7. Following the third surgery, Plaintiff did very well with significant improvement of her symptoms. However, several weeks following surgery, she again complained of pain.
In addition to her claim of negligence, Plaintiff claimed that Defendant was “impaired” because he had carpal tunnel syndrome at the time of his surgeries on Plaintiff. Defendant’s treating physician testified that his carpal tunnel was mild. Furthermore, Defendant testified that he only suffered slight numbness of his thumb at the end of the day following his evening work-out and that he sought treatment for the carpal tunnel before it ever became an issue.
After a little over an hour of deliberations, the jury returned a unanimous defense verdict. Following trial, the jury stated that Defendant made a very credible witness, that the carpal tunnel issue was a red herring, and that they questioned the legitimacy of Plaintiff’s chronic pain syndrome.