Spine Surgeon's Mistake: Jury Returns $3.15 Million Verdict

2020 Medical Malpractice Verdict

Defendant neurosurgeon sits on Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine. Patient's ordeal was subject of Boston Magazine article on dangerous doctors.

February 27, 2020 — Essex Superior Court


Lubin & Meyer PC is pleased to report that Attorney Adam Satin has won a medical malpractice verdict in excess of $3 million (with interest) in Essex County (Newburyport, Massachusetts) after the defendant neurosurgeon, Michael Medlock, MD, erroneously placed a surgical screw into a 71-year-old patient's vertebral artery during spine surgery at North Shore Medical Center.

The misplaced screw caused bleeding and nerve compression that was not timely treated by the defendant resulting in new deficits the patient did not have before surgery, including severe neck pain, substantial loss of mobility of his arms, and ultimately led to the development of a severe infection.

The case was featured in the Boston Magazine article, The Secret Truth About Boston Doctors, and was the topic of an interview with Attorney Andrew Meyer on NECN. The defendant neurosurgeon is currently a board member of the Board of Registration in Medicine and the Massachusetts Medical Society.

Misplaced Surgical Screw Causes Vertebral Artery Injury, Jury Finds Neurosurgeon at Fault

Medical Malpractice Trial Lawyer's Report
By Attorney Adam R. Satin
Added May 19, 2020

Case background

The plaintiff had a history of back pain, but in the summer of 2015, his symptoms had changed. His back pain no longer improved with rest and it was now affecting his legs. He was referred to the defendant, Dr. Michael Medlock, who was a neurosurgeon that practiced at the North Shore Medical Center in Salem.

Neurosurgeon referral

Dr. Medlock looked at his imaging studies and ultimately recommended two spine surgeries for the plaintiff. The first surgery went fine. The second surgery was performed on the patient’s cervical spine (i.e., in his neck) and the plan was to remove a disk, which serves as a shock absorber between two vertebrae, and replace that area with a bone graft so as to create a bony fusion at that level of the spine. Hardware affixed to the bone with surgical screws were placed to stabilize the spine.

Lawsuit claims botched surgical screw caused serious injury

The plaintiffs produced evidence that the defendant had misplaced one of the screws. More specifically, the screw the defendant placed, which was intended to go entirely into bone, was placed too laterally such that it breached a natural opening in the bone (called the transverse foramen) that was supposed to be avoided completely because it houses an important blood vessel called the vertebral artery.

The defendant misplaced the screw such that its threads broke into that foramen and directly injured the vertebral artery. Blood didn’t gush out immediately because the screw was pressing on the injured area, but over the next several days, blood was oozing out of that injured area and collecting such that the plaintiff began experiencing neurologic difficulties he did not have before the surgery.

Once the hematoma reached a critical mass, the plaintiff could no longer lift his arms, which was a problem that continued through the time of trial. Despite post-operative imaging, the plaintiff claimed that the defendant failed to recognize that this bleeding was the source of his new symptoms or that the large hematoma that had formed was a breeding ground for infection and, consequently, he did not return the plaintiff to surgery to explore and fix the problem in a timely manner.

Ultimately the patient was transferred to a tertiary care hospital where they diagnosed the Vertebral Artery Injury, which the defendant denied he had caused throughout the trial.

Jury decides in favor of plaintiff

The Essex County jury deliberated for just over 3 hours, returning a verdict of $3,151,744 (including interest) for the plaintiff.

Attorneys for the Plaintiff

Lubin & Meyer attorneys for the plaintiff: Andrew C. Meyer Jr., Adam R. Satin and Krysia Syska.

Questions about a surgical mistake?

If you have questions about a possible medical malpractice claim involving injuries due to a surgical mistake or delay in treatment, please call us for a free consultation.

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