County Cook Jury Decides Patient Injury in Post-op Physical Therapy Case

A Cook County jury heard evidence in a medical malpractice jury trial related to postoperative physical therapy that was alleged to have caused left knee ligament damage to the patient. The plaintiff in this case was 44-year-old Michele Boucher-Kmiec, who underwent left knee ligament repair surgery at Swedish Covenant Hospital on July 6, 2009. After the surgery, her leg was placed in an immobilizer.

On July 7 and July 8, 2009, the defendant physical therapist Brittany Mynsberge worked with the patient for her physical therapy. The physical therapy order came from Boucher-Kmiec’s surgeon, who did the knee surgery.

In this lawsuit, the plaintiff alleged that physical therapist Mynsberge was negligent in performing range of motion exercises on the post-surgical knee when it was contraindicated. It was also alleged that the physical therapist would have known that such a range of motion exercise was not indicated if she had noticed the immobilizer, which extended from the patient’s buttocks to her toes. It further contended that the defendant physical therapist’s improper therapy caused danger to the repaired medial collateral ligament, which later became infected.

As a result, Boucher-Kmiec required another ligament repair surgery, multiple debridement procedures to address the infected knee and a total knee replacement, which took place in October 2010.

The plaintiff claimed that permanent knee pain and limited mobility persisted. The medical expenses claimed were $850,000.

A loss of consortium claim was also brought by the plaintiff’s husband, but it was voluntarily dismissed before the beginning of the jury trial.

Defendants maintained it was within the physical therapist’s discretion to perform range of motion exercises on the knee, especially given the surgeon’s order to “evaluate and treat,” and the defendants denied the range of motion therapy caused any damage to the knee.

The defendants also argued that the disruption to the medial cruciate ligament (MCL) repair was caused by plaintiff’s fall at home on July 22, 2009. There was no mention in the medical records of any problems with the knee until after this fall. The knee was noted to be intact during a July 9 post-op visit with the surgeon, no complications were noted in a second follow-up visit on July 15, instability in the knee was not noted until July 23 (one day after the fall), and the surgical wound infection was diagnosed a month later in September. The defendants further denied that the infection was connected to the physical therapy and disputed plaintiff’s claim of permanent knee pain. Defendants also argued that the knee replacement should have resolved any knee issues.

Before trial, the demand to settle the case was $1 million, and an offer was made by the defendants also before trial for $100,000. The offer was rejected. At trial, the jury was asked to return a verdict of $2,800,000. Further, the parties agreed to a special interrogatory that was given to the jury, which read: “Were the range of motion exercises performed or allowed by Brittany Mynsberge a proximate cause of an injury claimed by the plaintiff to Ms. Boucher-Kmiec’s left knee?” The jury’s answer was, “No.”

Accordingly, the jury’s verdict was in favor of both the defendant physical therapist and Swedish Covenant Hospital.

Michele Boucher-Kmiec v. Brittany Mynsberge, P.T., Swedish Covenant Hospital, No. 11 L 446 (Cook County, Illinois).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling hospital negligence cases, medical malpractice cases, birth injury cases and wrongful death actions 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 38 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Morton Grove, North Riverside, Orland Park, Orland Hills, Palatine, Palos Heights, Prospect Heights, Stone Park, Streamwood, Summit, Thornton, Tinley Park, Western Springs, Wheeling, Vernon Hills, Worth and Calumet City, Ill.

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