State Supreme Court Affirms $2.3 Million Jury Verdict for Delay in Sending Patient to Hospital Following Knee Replacement Surgery

At issue in this case, which ended in the Idaho Supreme Court, was whether the jury’s verdict would stand. A medical malpractice lawsuit was brought by Leila Brauner against AHC of Boise d/b/a Aspen Transitional Rehab (Aspen). The lawsuit arose out of Aspen’s delay in sending Brauner to the hospital following her knee replacement surgery, which was a substantial factor resulting in the amputation of her right leg above the knee at mid-thigh.

After a jury trial, a verdict in favor of Brauner was signed by the jury in the amount of $2,265,204 in damages.

Aspen appealed, alleging that various pre-trial and post-trial rulings were in error and resulted in an unsustainable judgment.

Brauner, 76, began experiencing significant pain in her right knee. In order to continue her independent life and relieve the pain, she underwent a total knee arthroplasty, which was performed by Dr. Richard Moore, an orthopedic surgeon.

Brauner experienced post-operative pain and swelling and returned to Dr. Moore at which time he observed the same swelling in her knee and numbness in her foot. There was no dispute that a fracture in Brauner’s femur was visible in the x-ray that was done by Dr. Moore. However, Dr. Moore failed to diagnose the fracture. Instead, he recommended that Brauner ice and elevate her leg to help with swelling in her knee. Brauner then returned to Aspen for further rehabilitation.

During her remaining time at Aspen, Brauner made little progress. She complained of increasing pain. She also began to show signs of confusion. Her condition continued to worsen over the next 24 hours. Brauner was noted to have noticeable confusion that was “increasing as the night” went on. The nursing notes indicated that Brauner’s right foot curled inward and appeared to be limp. Brauner said she was in the worst pain of her life. She yelled “just shoot me” to her caregivers.

Brauner’s nursing expert testified at trial that the observations made by Brauner’s nurses were very concerning and should have warranted further investigations, including contacting a physician, which was not done.

Brauner’s final assessment at Aspen occurred at 5:28 a.m. on March 17, 2014. Brauner’s leg was cold to the touch, her skin was pale, and she had no pedal pulse. Brauner insisted on being transferred to the emergency department. There it was determined that the femoral fracture had completely severed the femoral artery. While attempts were made to save Brauner’s leg, the right leg was ultimately amputated at mid-thigh.

Brauner filed a medical malpractice claim against Dr. Moore, the Aspen medical center and the doctor who was the director at Aspen.

After a 7-day trial, the jury returned the verdict in favor of Brauner and signed a verdict for $2,265,204. Aspen appealed the judgment against it. During the pendency of the appeal, Aspen filed several post-judgment motions, including motions to compel certain documents, and alleged that Brauner’s attorney committed misconduct and misrepresented their negotiations and settlement agreement with Dr. Moore.

The Idaho Supreme Court found that the trial court did not err in its decisions regarding the testimony and reports of witnesses, particularly the expert witness Michelle Cook, a certified life care planner who was one of the Brauner’s experts. Aspen argued that the disclosure of this expert had been filed past the deadline. It was also argued that Cook did not have the proper medical experience to testify that the amputation was a substantial factor in the future expenses.

Finally, the Supreme Court found that although Brauner was not entitled to an award of attorney’s fees, she was entitled to costs as a matter of right under state law. The court affirmed the judgment against Aspen and in doing so it said that the district court’s decision to allow Cook or Dr. Moore to testify was not an error. Additionally, they held that there was no reversible error committed by the district court by excluding evidence of the settlement agreement. Lastly, the Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s order denying Aspen’s post-trial motion.

Brauner v. AHC of Boise, No. 45980, Idaho Supreme Court (Feb. 4, 2020).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling medical malpractice lawsuits, nursing negligence cases, brain injury lawsuits, amputation cases, birth trauma injury cases and orthopedic negligence lawsuits for individuals, families and loved ones who have been injured, harmed or killed by the carelessness or negligence by a medical provider for more than 40 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Lincolnwood, Glenview, Glencoe, Arlington Heights, Palatine, Inverness, Elk Grove Village, Villa Park, Glendale Heights, Carol Stream, Wheaton, Downers Grove, Naperville, Willow Springs, Burbank, Chicago (Chicago Lawn, Washington Heights, Beverly, Roscoe Village, Woodlawn, Bronzeville, Douglas, Lower West Side, Humboldt Park, Austin, Belmont Cragin, Ravenswood, Uptown, Andersonville, Park West, Sheffield Neighbors, Buena Park, West Ravenswood, Lincoln Square, Arcadia Terrace, Peterson Park, Pulaski Park, Little India, Rogers Park, Magnolia Glen, Edgewater, Sauganash, South Edgebrook, Jefferson Park, Norwood Park West, Union Ridge, Big Oaks), Norridge, Rosemont, Des Plaines, Highland Park, Evanston, Skokie, Wilmette, Winnetka, Prospect Heights and Crystal Lake, Ill.

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

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