Late in the evening on November 13, 2014, a Maryland medical malpractice jury on Maryland’s Eastern Shore returned a verdict in favor of a spine surgeon and his orthopedic practice after seven full days of trial. The jury of one woman and five men took over four and a half hours of deliberations before returning the defense verdict.
The male plaintiff had alleged that the defendant orthopedic spine surgeon was negligent in performing his cervical spine surgery in late June 2010 that ultimately resulted in him becoming wheelchair-bound. The plaintiff also alleged that the defendant failed to have obtained his informed consent for the cervical surgery during June 2010 and for lumbar surgery performed by the defendant during August 2010.
The Underlying Facts
In June 2010, the plaintiff was sixty-one and had been employed as an equipment operator at a local power plant for over thirty years. He had a seven-year history of sciatica with pain radiating into his right leg that had been treated by epidural injections in the past. During early June 2010, the plaintiff experienced an acute episode of feeling a disconnect between his upper body and lower body and he began having falls and a loss of balance over a three-week period. He drove himself to a Maryland hospital emergency room for his symptoms later in June and was discharged to home with instructions to follow up with the defendant orthopedic practice that had treated him for back pain in 2003 (the defendant orthopedic practice is the dominant orthopedic practice on Maryland’s rural Eastern Shore).
The plaintiff followed up with the orthopedic practice, as instructed, five days after his emergency room visit and was examined by a spine surgeon (not the defendant spine surgeon). The plaintiff was advised to begin physical therapy and to have a lumbar MRI because of his symptoms.
The plaintiff had the lumbar MRI at an outpatient facility five days later. On their way home from having the MRI, the plaintiff and his wife received a cellphone call from the caregiver of the plaintiff’s disabled mother-in-law who was living with the plaintiffs at that time, advising the plaintiffs that the caregiver had received a telephone call on the plaintiffs’ home landline, seeking to speak with the plaintiff and advising that the plaintiff should immediately go to the emergency room where the defendant spine surgeon, whose name was provided by the caller to the caregiver who then provided the name to the plaintiffs, would meet the plaintiff in the emergency room.
The plaintiffs, who were running errands before returning home, immediately drove to the emergency room where they were promptly placed in a small triage room. Shortly after their arrival, the defendant orthopedic spine surgeon, whom they had never met before, entered the triage room. Unknown to the plaintiffs at that time, the defendant was new to the defendant orthopedic practice, having become an employee of the defendant orthopedic practice ten months earlier, after finishing his fellowship training in spine surgery a month before he came to Maryland.
The plaintiffs alleged that the defendant spine surgeon examined the plaintiff, who was seated in a wheelchair at that time (the plaintiff alleged that he was placed in the wheelchair when he arrived in the emergency room), and then announced to the plaintiff, in his wife’s presence, “You know, it’s not your back, it’s your neck” and then, according to the plaintiffs’ testimony during trial, advised the plaintiffs that the plaintiff needed “emergency surgery or you will be paralyzed for life.” The plaintiff was made NPO and admitted by the defendant directly from the emergency room to the surgical floor of the hospital, where he awaited the emergency surgery on his neck.
The plaintiff testified at trial that he felt relieved when the defendant spine surgeon told him he needed emergency surgery on his neck, believing that he was saved from becoming paralyzed by coming to the emergency room as instructed and being admitted to a hospital bed. The plaintiffs testified at trial that the defendant was very caring and had a wonderful bedside manner, which, along with their feeling that they had avoided the plaintiff becoming paralyzed by the fortuitous meeting with the defendant, led them to put their full faith and trust in the defendant’s care.
We will continue telling the plaintiffs’ unfortunate saga from being ambulatory to becoming wheelchair bound, in tomorrow’s blog posting …
If you or a family member may have been injured due to medical negligence in Maryland or in another U.S. state, you should promptly seek the legal advice of a Maryland medical malpractice attorney or a medical malpractice attorney in your state who may investigate your medical malpractice claim for you and represent you in a medical malpractice lawsuit, if appropriate.
Click here to visit our website to submit a secure form or telephone us on our toll-free line (800-295-3959) to be connected with medical malpractice lawyers in Maryland or in your state who may assist you.
Turn to us when you don’t know where to turn.