On December 13, 2019, a North Carolina medical malpractice jury deliberated for three and a half hours before returning its verdict in the amount of $816,988 against an emergency room physician, an orthopedic surgeon, and a hospital. The North Carolina medical malpractice jury awarded $400,000 in pain and suffering and $416,988 for lost wages to the plaintiff, who was 61-years-old in 2014 when he suffered a spinal epidural hematoma following neck fusion surgery that was not timely diagnosed and treated, resulting in a permanent spinal cord injury that prevented him from returning to work.
After the surgery and while recuperating at home, the plaintiff repeatedly attempted to contact the defendant orthopedic surgeon by telephone over a two-day period to advise him that he developed severe pain and weakness. The plaintiff thereafter fell at home and was transported to the defendant hospital, which did not have an MRI machine. The plaintiff’s condition continued to deteriorate during the seven and a half hours he was in the emergency department of the defendant hospital, before he was transferred to another hospital. The plaintiff claimed that the defendant hospital failed to properly monitor his condition while in the ER.
The plaintiff arrived at the second hospital at 9 a.m. but he did not have surgery until 5 p.m. By that time, his injury had become permanent.
The defendant hospital released a statement after the verdict: “We received a jury verdict against Ashe Memorial Hospital and a spine surgeon for care rendered to a patient in 2014. We remain under an obligation to protect this patient’s right to privacy and our comments are therefore limited. We can share that the attending emergency room physician is no longer employed by the hospital. But, we felt his care for this patient was thoughtful. The jury, however, concluded the patient was entitled to some compensation. We accept their judgment because we are all joined by the goal of the best patient care possible. We will continue to carefully evaluate all the ways to advance our services to meet the highest standards.”
The incidence of postoperative spinal epidural hematoma (SEH) that necessitate surgical intervention because of neurological deficits, such as clinically significant spinal cord or nerve root compression, is extremely rare (incidence rates of postoperative SEHs requiring surgical evacuation range from 0.1 % to 0.2%). Postoperative SEHs that necessitate surgical intervention by causing devastating neurological deficits can be a significant cause of morbidity. Therefore, postoperative neurological examination should be performed as early as possible. When the development of neurological deficits is detected, SEH should be considered and diagnosis, and possibly therapy, should start without delay.
If you or a loved one may have been injured (or worse) as a result of medical negligence in North Carolina or in another U.S. state, you should promptly find a North Carolina medical malpractice lawyer, or a medical malpractice lawyer in your state, who may investigate your medical malpractice claim for you and represent you or your loved one in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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