Blinded man awarded $1.75m

Published by The Union Leader, March 8, 2008
By Garry Rayno

MANCHESTER – The failure of a Concord emergency room surgeon to stabilize an accident victim before surgery resulted in one of the largest jury awards for medical malpractice in New Hampshire.

A Merrimack County Superior Court jury Thursday awarded Randolph Hinz, 42, of Warner, $1.75 million plus about $200,000 in interest because he has been blind since the emergency surgery, according to his attorney, Suzanne McDonough of Lubin and Meyer PC of Boston.

Hinz was in an a roll-over auto accident Sept. 15, 2003, on I-89. It threw him about 150 feet from the vehicle, according to court papers. He suffered significant injuries including multiple broken bones and a collapsed lung, resulting in blood loss of 30 to 40 percent.

He was taken to Concord Hospital’s emergency room where the trauma team had been activated. Emergency room surgeon Eric Leefmans of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Clinic in Concord performed emergency surgery to repair Hinz’s broken leg, but Hinz was not given blood to stabilize his condition, according to McDonough.

She said the leg surgery could have waited, noting Hinz had other surgeries to repair broken bones a month later.

Because of the blood loss, McDonough said, the nerves in his brain controlling sight were oxygen deprived and died, so he was blind when he came out of the surgery.

In 2006, Hinz sued three emergency room doctors: Leefmans, Russell Kay and Erin Rowell, and Concord Hospital, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Clinic.

According to McDonough, the jury found Leefmans 100 percent responsible for Hinz’s condition and held him and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Clinic liable. The other doctors and medical facilities were not found to be responsible, she said.

Phone calls to attorneys David Gould of Ficksman & Conley LLC of Boston, and Emily Gray Rice of Orr and Reno in Concord, who represented Leefmans and the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Clinic, were not returned.

Phone numbers for Hinz and his family had messages that they had been disconnected with no other information available.

McDonough said the defense claimed during the trial Hinz was lucky to be alive after the injuries he suffered. That may be, she said, but "he did not go to a local doctor or some health care shop on the side of the road, he went to an emergency room, a level-one trauma center. You're not supposed to come away blind."

She said Hinz told her so poignantly, 'I woke up in a dark room a month-and-a-half after it happened, and I'm still in that dark room, and I'm not coming out.'"

McDonough said he told her it is not like he sees black, he has no sense of sight at all.

"It’s not good enough to say he was thrown from a car and broke a lot of bones. Breaking a lot of bones did not make him go blind," McDonough said.

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