The malpractice insurance company for a physical therapist settled a physical therapy malpractice claim against its insured by paying more than $200,000 to the patient, and paying more than $90,000 for legal expenses.
The plaintiff was a nine-year-old child with cerebral palsy who the physical therapist had successfully treated prior to the child having extensive surgery for fractures of both ankles. After the casts were removed from the child’s legs following the surgery, the child was referred back to the physical therapist for therapy.
The surgeon ordered specialized orthotics for the child to keep his ankles in proper position during physical therapy. The physical therapist applied the orthotics and then began providing physical therapy using the therapeutic exercise that the therapist had previously used with the patient. The exercise involved placing the child in a seated position on a therapy ball that was pushed up against the wall, with chairs on both sides of the patient.
The physical therapist instructed the child to hold on to the therapy ball’s handle with his left hand while tossing small beanbags into a basket using his right hand, while the therapist stood on the patient’s left side. The child suddenly slipped to his right side and the physical therapist grabbed the child and eased him to the floor. The child immediately experienced pain behind his right knee and was sent to a hospital emergency room.
At the hospital, it was found that the child had suffered a non-displaced fracture of his right tibia that was treated with an over-the-knee cast. The cast stayed in place for two months; the fracture healed without deformity. The parents of the child subsequently filed a physical therapy malpractice claim against the physical therapist, alleging that the therapist was negligent and that the negligence resulted in the tibia fracture.
Experts opined that the orthotics applied by the physical therapist acted as a fulcrum point of the fracture that was caused by the fall. While the experts were of the opinion that the therapist’s choice of exercise for the child was appropriate for the patient’s weakness on his right side and that the physical therapist correctly applied the orthotics, they further believed that the physical therapist was negligent by failing to stand to the child’s right side (the patient’s weak side) while performing the exercise and the therapist should have foreseen that if the child fell, he would fall to his right (weaker) side.
The physical therapist’s medical malpractice insurance company decided to settle the claim against its insured because it considered that the child would make a very sympathetic plaintiff and the facts of the claim would not be helpful to the defense.
If you or a family member may have suffered injuries or other harms as a result of physical therapy malpractice, you should promptly consult with a medical malpractice attorney in your state who may investigate your physical therapy negligence claim for you and represent you in a malpractice claim against a physical therapist, if appropriate.
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