Unneeded surgery led to rupture of spine, patient claimed
|Unnecessary Procedure, Medical Malpractice - Informed Consent, Medical Malpractice - Orthopedic Surgery|
|Veronica Drummond v. Lutheran Medical Center and Thomas Haher, M.D., No. 16427/06|
|Bronx Supreme, NY|
|Robert E. Torres
- Anthony P. Gentile; Godosky & Gentile, P.C.; New York, NY, for Veronica Drummond
- Richard Memoli M.D.; Orthopedic Surgery; Bronx, NY called by: Anthony Gentile
- David Shein M.D.; Orthopedic Surgery; Bronx, NY called by: Anthony Gentile
- Raymond W. Belair; Belair & Evans, LLP; New York, NY, for Thomas Haher
- None reported; null, null, for Lutheran Medical Center
- Medical Liability Mutual Insurance Co. for Haher
On Dec. 16, 2003, plaintiff Veronica Drummond, a 54-year-old unemployed woman, underwent fusion of a portion of her spine's lumbar region. The procedure addressed a herniated intervertebral disc, and it was performed by Dr. Thomas Haher, at Lutheran Medical Center, in Brooklyn. The fused area was secured via the insertion of screws.
After eight months had passed, Drummond experienced a rupture of the screws that were securing the fused area of her spine. She claimed that the development necessitated extensive revisionary treatment, and she contended that she remains permanently disabled. She claimed that the fusion was unnecessary.
Drummond sued Haher and Lutheran Medical Center. She alleged that Haher unnecessarily fused a portion of her spine, that he failed to obtain informed consent to the procedure, that his actions constituted malpractice and that Lutheran Medical Center was vicariously liable for his actions.
Drummond's counsel ultimately discontinued the claim against Lutheran Medical Center. The matter proceeded to a trial against Haher.
Drummond's expert orthopedist examined the results of a presurgical MRI scan that Drummond underwent. The expert acknowledged that the test revealed narrowing of the relevant area of Drummond's spine, but he opined that the condition did not necessitate fusion of the spine. He estimated that 10 percent of fusions fail, and he also estimated that 20 percent produce unsatisfactory results, and he contended that Drummond's presurgical condition did not justify performance of the procedure. Drummond's counsel contended that Haher should have performed a discectomy, which would have involved excision of Drummond's herniated disc.
Drummond acknowledged that she signed a document that explained the risks that stemmed from undergoing fusion of her spine, but she claimed that she believed that Haher would perform a discectomy. She contended that Haher did not explain that fusion would be performed. Thus, Drummond's counsel argued that Haher did not obtain informed consent to fusion.
Drummond's counsel presented one of Haher's friends. The person was present during a presurgical conference that involved Drummond and Haher, and she claimed that Haher did not discuss fusion. Defense counsel challenged the witness's credibility. He noted that the witness erroneously stated that Drummond did not sign a document that provided consent to surgery. Haher claimed that he discussed fusion, and he contended that he described the procedure's associated risks. Defense counsel also presented a doctor who had overseen Drummond's presurgical treatment. The doctor reported that Drummond clearly stated that she was undergoing fusion.
Haher also contended that fusion was a necessary, appropriate method of treating Drummond's condition. He claimed that she had been experiencing debilitating pain, and he contended that five months of conservative treatment did not resolve the pain. He also contended that her pain worsened during the weeks that preceded the surgery that he performed. He acknowledged that a discectomy had been contemplated, but he claimed that the procedure would not have relieved Drummond's pain. The defense's expert orthopedist agreed that fusion was an appropriate method of treating Drummond's condition.
In 2004, Drummond experienced a rupture of the fused portion of her spine. She suffered irritation of the roots of spinal nerves, and the irritation caused spasms, pain that stemmed from her legs and numbness of her legs.
In 2008, Drummond underwent surgery that involved fusion of her spine's L2-3, L3-4, L4-5 and L5-S1 levels. She claimed that the procedure caused permanent pain that necessitates her use of painkillers. She also claimed that she requires the use of a cane. She contended that she cannot resume work, and she claimed that her spine's compromised condition could necessitate additional fusion.
Drummond sought recovery of $200,000 for past medical expenses, $3 million for past pain and suffering, and $3 million for future pain and suffering.
Defense counsel contended that two doctors believed that Drummond's second surgery was not necessary. He claimed that the doctors opined that exercise and a diet would have relieved any pain that Drummond was experiencing. He also claimed that her subsequent treating surgeon opined that her initial fusion's failure did not produce an injury. Defense counsel suggested that Drummond exaggerated the extent of the effects of the fusion's failure.
The jury found that Haher departed from an accepted standard of medical care. It determined that Drummond's damages totaled $4.2 million.
$200,000 Personal Injury: Past Medical Cost
$2,000,000 Personal Injury: Past Pain And Suffering
$2,000,000 Personal Injury: Future Pain And Suffering
Defense counsel has moved to set aside the verdict.
This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiff's counsel and Haher's counsel. Lutheran Medical Center's counsel was not asked to contribute.