Articles Posted in Medical Malpractice

Holly Mozzone, 39, underwent a bursectomy and a repair to her labrum; surgery was performed by orthopedic surgeon Dr. Gary Hunter. During the surgical procedure, Dr. Hunter placed a screw into her shoulder joint instead of on the limb of the joint.

As a result of this mistake, she developed mechanical and range-of-motion problems that necessitated 18 months of physical therapy. She was unable to continue working as a nursing assistant and now works as a flight attendant.

Mozzon filed a lawsuit against Dr. Hunter claiming liability for placing the screw during the operation in the shoulder joint instead of in the rim of the joint. That displacement of the surgical screw was the cause of her shoulder problems. The jury awarded $188,000 plus $150,000 in attorney fees.

Mariam Toraish, as the administrator of her deceased five-year-old son Adam’s estate, filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against James J. Lee, M.D., and his practice. Dr. Lee had done a tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy surgery on Adam, who died that same day from cardiac arrhythmia.

Toraish’s complaint alleged that Adam was at a high risk for postoperative respiratory difficulties and that Dr. Lee violated the applicable standard of care by choosing not to order that he be monitored overnight following surgery.

During jury trial, the trial court allowed the expert testimony of Simeon Boyd, M.D., a board-certified pediatric geneticist, who gave an opinion that Adam likely died of “cardiac arrest due to Brugada syndrome.”
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A Colorado jury has signed its verdict for $14.9 million to a couple in Colorado. This medical negligence lawsuit alleged that an outpatient surgery center was negligent in administering a steroid that caused Robbin Smith’s paralysis from the waist down.

The jury determined that The Surgery Center at Lone Tree LLC, the defendant in the case, was negligent in treating Smith in 2013 by injecting a steroid called Kenalog in her spine despite the drug company’s warning. Two years before the injection was done, the drug maker of the steroid drug, Kenalog announced that Kenalog should not be used for epidural procedures as Smith was given.

The Colorado jury found that the surgery center’s negligence and its choosing not to obtain Smith’s informed consent to the steroid injection was a cause of her paralysis. This record-setting verdict was entered on March 23, 2017.
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Plaintiff Donald Brier brought a cause of action against a practice group and an orthopedic surgeon, Greater Hartford Orthopedic Group P.C., and David Kruger, MD, an orthopedic surgeon (collectively, Defendants), alleging medical malpractice arising out of a spinal surgery that went bad.

After the running of the applicable statute of limitations, Brier sought to amend his complaint. Both the original complaint and the amended version alleged that Dr. Kruger and his medical group chose not to plan and use an instrument that could have been utilized. The original complaint alleged the misuse of a skull clamp during the surgery.

Brier’s amended complaint included allegations of the improper use of a retractor blade. The trial court narrowly construed the original complaint as limited to a claim of the negligent usage of the skull clamp and denied Brier’s request to amend his complaint.
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Alice Mays was 54 when she entered the emergency room at Sinai-Grace Hospital. She was complaining of nausea and vomiting over a four-day period. After the emergency department medical providers tested her, it was revealed that she had a bowel obstruction. The emergency department staff then gave her saline and later brought her to surgery. The 5-hour operation performed by the surgeon, Dr. Jill Watras, involved removal of part of her large bowel.

She showed continuously low urine output, which prompted Dr. Watras to order aggressive hydration after the surgery.

For the next two days, Mays received a total of 30,000 mL of fluids. Nonetheless, she had little or no urine output. She eventually suffered respiratory depression, abdominal compartment syndrome and organ failure. She was returned to surgery but suffered cardiac arrest and brain damage. Mays died two months later. She was a graphic artist and is survived by her siblings.
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It is no secret that thousands of American patients die or are permanently and seriously injured by medical providers. More than 250,000 Americans die in hospitals every year due to medical errors. That staggering number makes deaths in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, assisted living facilities and long-term care centers the third most common cause of death in the United States. The number of Americans who die because of the negligent errors made by medical providers is higher than those who die because of respiratory disease, accidents, stroke and Alzheimer’s disease.

According to the study by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, the causes of the deaths are not isolated to one common medical practice area.

The Johns Hopkins research involves a comprehensive analysis of four large studies. According to a report a year ago by the Washington Post, the Johns Hopkins report took into account studies from the U.S. Health and Human Services Department’s Office of the Inspector General and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality between 2000 to 2008. The calculation of 251,000 deaths in a year amounts to nearly 700 deaths a day — about 9.5 percent of all deaths annually in the United States.
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“Leaders must commit to creating and maintaining a culture of safety.” National Patient Safety Foundation. Free From Harm: Accelerating patient safety improvement for 15 years after To Err is Human.  2015 (accessed Dec. 8, 2016). This is just a part of the Sentinel Event Alert publication of The Joint Commission Issue 57, March 1, 2017.

The core of the publication is that leadership in hospitals and medicine generally have a priority to be “accountable for effective care while protecting the safety of patients, employees, and visitors. Competent and thoughtful leaders contribute to improvements in safety and organizational culture.”

This alert acknowledges that hospitals, doctors, nurses and health care professionals must do a better job of protecting their patients from harm. The article states that “The Joint Commission’s Sentinel Event Database reveals that leadership’s failure to create an effective safety culture is a contributing factor to many types of adverse events-from wrong site surgery to delays in treatment.” Smetzer, J, et al. Shaping systems for better behavioral choices: lessons learned from a fatal medication error. Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety. 2010; 36: 152-164.
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In a case being reported with a confidentiality agreement, Doe, age 15, developed a mass on the bone of her left middle finger, for which orthopedic surgeon Dr. Ronald Hillock recommended surgery.

During the outpatient procedure, Dr. Hillock used a latex Penrose drain to place a tourniquet around Doe’s finger. While in the recovery room, a nurse noted that Doe’s finger looked discolored; however, Hillock discharged Doe.

Doe had several follow-up appointments with Dr. Hillock in the next few weeks but the finger remained discolored. Doe consulted a different doctor about 30 days after the surgery. That physician diagnosed ischemia and later performed a finger amputation.
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Kelly Wolfe was 56 years old when he was involved in a motorcycle crash. Paramedics from the city of Grand Prairie arrived at the crash location where they found him alert and breathing regularly. The paramedics attempted unsuccessfully to intubate Wolfe. The paramedics undertook the intubation even though Wolfe told the paramedics that he wanted to go home.

A helicopter service operated by PHI Air Medical Inc. came to the scene to transport Wolfe to a nearby hospital. Before the helicopter transport, the paramedics provided the PHI Air personnel with a paralyzing agent to facilitate Wolfe’s intubation.For some reason, the paramedics were determined that intubation was the thing to do.

Twenty minutes later, when Wolfe arrived at the hospital, he was deemed brain dead due to prolonged oxygen deprivation. Wolfe subsequently died. He had been working as a paramedic instructor, earning about $50,000 per year. He is survived by his three children, one of whom was a minor.

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The Illinois Appellate Court has ruled that the guardians of a seriously injured student football player must include a supporting statement from a health care professional to proceed with the case. The guardians had claimed in a lawsuit that a physical and sports-injury therapist provided improper care that caused or exasperated the student’s injuries. Under Illinois’ Code of Civil Procedure, 735 ILCS 5/2-622, the Healing Art Malpractice section, “…a plaintiff shall file an affidavit, attached to the original and all copies of the complaint…”

In the court’s opinion, the three-judge panel found that Illinois law requires the “622” affidavit from a health care expert in a suit alleging medical malpractice and that failure to do so is grounds for dismissal. However, this case is murky because an Athletico Ltd. athletic trainer hired by the public school system is not a traditional medical professional, according to the ruling.

Jodine Williams and Christopher Williams, the guardians of Drew Williams, who suffered a concussion in a football game and then continued to play, filed the suit. Drew Williams became disabled following the injury. Their suit was dismissed. The court ruled that the Williams’ suit should not have been dismissed. The appeals court said in remanding the case that the guardians should have a reasonable chance to file the 622 affidavit along with an amended complaint.

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