$5.1 Million Settlement for Former Red Sox Pitcher Bobby Jenks

2019 Medical Malpractice Settlement

Improperly performed back spine surgery at MGH leads to career-ending disability for professional athlete

May 2019 — Suffolk Superior Court

Summary: Lubin & Meyer PC attorneys Robert M. Higgins and Andrew C. Meyer, Jr. represented former Red Sox pitcher Bobby Jenks in this medical malpractice lawsuit against surgeon at Boston's Mass. General Hospital. Jenks suffered a career-ending injury from spine surgery and his lawsuit and settlement refocused attention on the practice of simultaneous surgeries.

Medical Malpractice Trial Lawyer's Report

By Robert M. Higgins, Attorney for the Plaintiff

The plaintiff, Robert Jenks, was a relief pitcher for the Boston Red Sox who injured his back while pitching in July 2011. Through the team, he was referred to the defendant Kirkham Wood, M.D., an orthopedic and spine surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital. After a couple of consultations, the decision was made for Mr. Jenks to undergo spinal surgery on December 12, 2011.

On the day of the surgery, unbeknownst to Mr. Jenks, Dr. Wood had another patient whose spine surgery started within minutes of Mr. Jenks’ surgery in the operating room next door. Dr. Wood was the responsible attending surgeon in both surgeries. While Dr. Wood was operating on Mr. Jenks, he was getting calls and texts asking when he would be finished with Mr. Jenks’ surgery so he could begin the other surgery. Mr. Jenks had no health issues immediately after the surgery and he was discharged to home on 12/15/11. It was anticipated and expected that Mr. Jenks would return to baseball the following season.

On 12/30/11, Mr. Jenks presented to Scottsdale (AZ) Healthcare Emergency Department complaining of severe headache and neck pain and was in significant distress. He also had drainage of clear fluid from his thoracic spine surgical wound. An MRI of the thoracic spine revealed a jagged piece of bone that had been left behind by Dr. Wood had punctured the covering of Mr. Jenks’ spinal cord. Cultures of the spinal fluid also showed that Mr. Jenks had a serious infection.

Mr. Jenks underwent an emergency surgery with repair of the dural leak. Following Mr. Jenks’ revision surgery, he developed persistent pain on the left side of his mid thoracic region directly in the location of the prior surgeries. It was exacerbated when he attempted the pitching portion of his recovery. He attempted conservative treatment including nerve blocks but they did not provide relief. Mr. Jenks was never able to return to be a major league pitcher.

The plaintiff was expect to present expert medical testimony that Dr. Wood was negligent in how he performed Mr. Jenks’ surgery. It was the expert’s opinion that Dr. Wood failed to complete Mr. Jenks’ surgery and improperly left behind a jagged piece of bone. It was that bone that caused the spinal cord leak that lead to the serious infection Mr. Jenks developed. It was expected the expert would further testify that the second surgery on 12/30/11, along with the infection, disrupted the muscles in his back, contributed to more muscle devitalization, more scar formation, ultimately muscular dysfunction.

The plaintiff also expected to elicit at trial the opinions of a long-time major league scout who was expected to testify that Mr. Jenks’ pitching career was expected to continue for another 3-year contract had he not been disabled after the surgery.

The case settled for $5,100,000 the day prior to jury selection.

Related Media Coverage

Former Red Sox pitcher settles claim with doctor, MGH for $5.1 million
Out-of-court settlement with MGH and Dr. Kirkham Wood, former head of orthopedic spine surgery
The Boston Globe, May 8, 2019

Bobby Jenks, who claims botched 2011 surgery at MGH in Boston ended MLB career, reaches $5.1M legal settlement with hospital
Former major-league pitcher agrees to $5.1 million settlement from Massachusetts General Hospital and a doctor he says caused his career-ending spine injury.
MassLive March 28, 2019

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