Michigan Appellate Court Affirms Medical Malpractice Defendants Not Entitled To Summary Disposition For Electrocautery Burn Claim

On August 1, 2014, the Michigan medical malpractice plaintiff underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder that was performed by the defendant surgeons. Electrocautery (the process of heating tissues with electricity to seal blood vessels and stop bleeding) was used during the surgery. Electrocautery requires that an adhesive electrosurgical grounding pad be secured smoothly to and flush with a cleared area of a patient’s skin (there must be firm contact between the pad and the skin so as to prevent arcing of the electrical current and burns to the patient). When the grounding pad was removed from the plaintiff’s left lateral flank following the surgery, it was discovered that he had suffered a burn at the site of the pad.

The plaintiff’s Michigan medical malpractice lawsuit alleged that the grounding pad was not properly applied to the plaintiff’s side before the surgery was begun, that the standard of care required the defendant surgeons to check the pad before starting the surgery, and that the standard of care was breached because either the pad was not checked before the surgery began or the pad was checked and the inappropriate placement of the pad was ignored or not detected. The defendants moved for partial summary disposition pursuant to MCR 2.116(C)(10), and the trial court denied the defendants’ motion in a written opinion and order. The defendants appealed.

In its unpublished opinion dated October 24, 2019, the State of Michigan Court of Appeals (“Michigan Appellate Court’) affirmed the trial court’s denial of the defendants’ motion for summary disposition, stating: “Assuming that the standard of care did require Drs. Lederman and Kwartowitz [the defendant surgeons] to check the placement of the grounding pad at the beginning of the surgery, we note that Dr. Kwartowitz made no claim that he had done so, thereby breaching the presumed standard of care. With respect to Dr. Lederman, if we accept that he in fact checked the grounding pad, a malpractice claim can still be made on the basis that he did so negligently by failing to identify, or by ignoring, an improperly applied grounding pad. Dr. Corn [the plaintiff’s expert] opined that the grounding pad had not been correctly secured to plaintiff’s side at the start of the surgical procedure. He reached this conclusion because the pad was found puckered and not intact with plaintiff’s skin, and because, in Dr. Corn’s view, neither movement by plaintiff nor anything else could be identified as a contributing factor to the state of the pad. Dr. Corn’s deposition testimony was sufficient to create an issue of fact with respect to whether the grounding pad was appropriately placed on plaintiff and whether Dr. Lederman missed or ignored the improper placement. Accordingly, the trial court did not err in denying the motion for summary disposition. Moreover, considering our ruling, it becomes unnecessary to address the issue whether Drs. Lederman and Kwartowitz, having delegated the placement of the grounding pad to operating room staff, can be held liable for any negligent actions committed by surgical personnel in placing or applying the pad.”

Source Abdulkarim v. Lederman, COA 341950.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, December 18th, 2019 at 5:25 am. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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