Spinal Cord Injury Medical Malpractice Case Settles for $3 Million

2011 Medical Malpractice Trial Report

Failure to recognize condition of epidural abscess results in spinal cord injury and partial quadriplegia

On 12/22/06, the plaintiff went to the Emergency Room with persistent, bilateral neck pain that radiated from his neck down into both of his shoulders. The plaintiff was in so much pain that he could not sit down during the initial exam and asked if the could be examined while standing up. Shortly after arriving, the plaintiff was given Toradol and Valium for the pain. Within an hour or so, he reported that his pain was better and he was discharged with a diagnosis of neck strain and spasm. He was also instructed to see his PCP for further evaluation if the pain did not improve or worsened.

The following day, the plaintiff’s wife called the defendant PCP at his office and reported that the plaintiff had been in the ER the day before for severe neck pain. She indicated to the office that he continued to have pain in his neck but also had fever and chills. The plaintiff was instructed to continue taking the medications that had been ordered by the ER and to come see the defendant PCP on 12/26 (3 days later).

As instructed, the plaintiff went to see the defendant on 12/26/06. The plaintiff told the defendant that he had 4 days of neck pain, radiating down both arms. In addition, the plaintiff reported that he had numbness in his right thumb, fever, chills, dysuria and myalgia in his legs. On physical exam, the defendant noted that the plaintiff had decreased range of movement in all directions in his neck. The defendant’s assessment was neck pain and likely prostatitis. The defendant ordered a non-emergent MRI, a physical therapy referral, and Bactrim.

At 5:00 am the next morning, fourteen hours after being seen by the defendant, the plaintiff returned to the ER in a wheelchair. He was noted to have significant weakness in both legs and had no sensation below T7 or in his fingers. He also had no rectal tone and minimal perianal sensation. The plaintiff was emergently evaluated by a neurologist who immediately transferred the plaintiff to Boston for neurosurgery.

Upon arrival, the plaintiff was intubated and underwent an emergency MRI which revealed epidural disease up and down his cervical spine extending into the thoracic spine, from C3 to C5. The plaintiff was diagnosed with an epidural abscess with spinal cord compression at C6. The plaintiff then underwent emergent decompression and evacuation surgery with C6-7 spinal fusion.

After a few weeks in the hospital, the plaintiff was sent to rehab with the diagnosis of T4-5 partial quadriplegia. At present the plaintiff has no use of his legs and only very limited use of his hands and fingers. He is confined to a wheelchair and requires assistance with most activities of daily living.

The plaintiffs expected to present expert medical testimony that the plaintiff’s condition at the time of the visit to the defendant was a classic presentation of a spinal abscess. It was the plaintiffs’ expectation that the medical testimony would have shown that an emergent MRI was required and would have diagnosed the abscess when it could have been treated with antibiotics and surgery without any permanent damages.

The defendant was expected to present medical testimony that the defendant acted appropriately in his care and treatment of the plaintiff. It was the defendant’s position that his symptoms on the day in question were not typical of how a spinal abscess presents and that there was no way he could have known what was going to happen the next day.

The case settled for $3,000,000.00 the week before the trial was scheduled to begin.

Lubin & Meyer attorneys represented the plaintiff in this spinal cord injury lawsuit involving failure to recognize epidural abscess.

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