$1 Million Jury Verdict Reduced by State Law in Negligent Spine Surgery

Dr. Fangxiang Chen was an agent of Mercy Clinic East Communities.

Dr. Chen allegedly recommended that the plaintiff, Natalie Avilez, 39, undergo a minimally invasive right-sided microdiscectomy at T7-8. A microdiscectomy procedure is a type of minimally invasive discectomy commonly used to treat a herniated disc. When a herniated disc compresses a spinal nerve, symptoms can include pain (which may extend down one or both arms and legs, as is the case in sciatica), muscle weakness and difficulty with repetitive motions.

After the surgery, Avilez learned from Dr. Chen that he had operated on the wrong side of her spine and on the wrong level. The next day, Dr. Chen returned Avilez to surgery during which he performed a T6-7 laminectomy before intraoperative imaging showed he was still at the wrong level. Resulting from these incorrect surgeries, Avilez experienced additional pain and increased anxiety.

She sued Mercy Clinic East Communities alleging vicarious liability for the negligence of its agent, Dr. Chen. Avilez claimed that Dr. Chen chose not to perform surgery at T7-8 as was intended.

In addition, it was alleged that Dr. Chen improperly interpreted the intraoperative radiology images and failed to adhere to established safeguards for surgery, including taking a safety “timeout.” The St. Louis County jury returned a verdict of $1 million in noneconomic damages.

However, because of Missouri state law on damages in medical malpractice lawsuits, the verdict was reduced to approximately $457,700. The case has reportedly been appealed.

The attorneys handling this case for Natalie Avilez were Morgan C. Murphy and Rachel L. Roman, both of St. Louis.

Avilez v. Mercy Clinic East Communities, No. 21 SL-CC00047 (Mo. Cir. Ct. St. Louis County).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling medical negligence lawsuits, surgical error lawsuits, physician negligence cases, wrongful death lawsuits, and birth trauma lawsuits for individuals, families and loved ones who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of the carelessness or negligence of a medical provider for more than 47 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Gurnee, Elmhurst, Riverwoods, Northbrook, Melrose Park, Bellwood, Lincolnshire, Mount Prospect, Morton Grove, Chicago (North Lawndale, East Garfield Park, Austin, Jackson Park, Washington Park, Rogers Park, Hegewisch), Deerfield, Glenview, Northfield, Lincolnwood, and Rosemont, Ill.

Robert D. Kreisman has been an active member of the Illinois and Missouri bars since 1976.

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