Cook County Jury Verdict for Hospital in Paraplegic Spinal Surgery Case

A Cook County jury has decided that Northwestern Memorial Hospital was not negligent after a back surgery on 83-year-old JoAnn Smith went wrong. 

On Aug. 5, 2010, Smith underwent an L4-5 microendoscopic foraminotomy and discectomy at Northwestern Memorial Hospital for management of her back pain. After the surgery, she was diagnosed with multiple deep vein thromboses, pulmonary embolism and a blood clot in her right internal jugular vein. Heparin was given to help with the clotting issue.

On Aug. 8, 2010, Smith developed abnormal neurological signs and symptoms. An MRI revealed internal bleeding and cord compression in the cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine. An emergency decompression surgery was done.

The surgery was not successful and she was later diagnosed with T-3 incomplete paraplegia. The past medical expenses for Smith were over $1.2 million, and her future medical expenses were predicted to be $1.8 million.

Smith alleged in her lawsuit that the hospital’s neurosurgical residents deviated from the standard of care by failing to completely discontinue Heparin on Aug. 7, 2010 when her PTT was above 150 and failing to recognize her complaints voiced on Aug. 7 were associated with the spinal bleed. PTT is partial thromboplastin time, which is a blood test that determines how long it would take for a patient’s blood to clot. The PTT test determines whether the patient has bleeding or clotting issues. The normal values for PTT are between 25-35 seconds. Smith’s PTT of 150 was alarming for clotting.

The defendant contended that the hospital’s residents properly managed Smith’s Heparin and examined her throughout the course of her hospitalization. Her Aug. 7 pain complaints were not symptomatic of a spinal bleed. The hospital also asserted that Smith did not show any neurological deficits until 6 a.m. on Aug. 8, at which time she was assessed and identified as having developed a bleed. There was no delay in diagnosis of complications, and all treatments that were done by the hospital met the standard of care. The jury agreed and found in favor of Northwestern Memorial Hospital and against Smith and her family.

Before trial, the demand to settle was $8 million. There was an offer made of $2 million, which apparently was rejected by Smith and her counsel.

JoAnn Smith, et al. v. Northwestern Memorial Hospital, No. 12 L 8729 (Cook County, Illinois).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling medical negligence cases, birth injury matters and nursing home abuse cases for individuals and families who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of the carelessness or negligence of a medical provider for more than 37 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Chicago (Bridgeport, Bucktown, Chinatown, Fulton River District, Galewood, Greektown, Irving Park, Jefferson Park, McKinley Park, North Park, Pilsen, Printers Row), Barrington Hills, Batavia, Bolingbrook, Burbank, Downers Grove, Evanston, Frankfort, Glen Ellyn and Homer Glen, Ill.

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