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Plaintiff Seeks $1M for Post-Op Fall; Jury Awards Less Than $200K

July 6, 2022

Johnson & Bell Shareholder, Matthew L. Johnson, and Associate Attorney, Caroline K. Vickrey, recently defended their hospital client in a medical negligence trial in DuPage County.  After plaintiff demanded $1 million in damages during closing arguments, the jury awarded $192,591.63.  In this case, plaintiff claimed the hospital’s nurses were negligent in a post-op transfer to a bedside commode.  Plaintiff had undergone a lumbar laminectomy and fusion surgery with removal of a degenerative epidural cyst, and experienced knee buckling and weakness post-operatively.  Plaintiff alleged that the hospital and its staff failed to communicate the knee buckling to his physicians and failed to take proper precautions to prevent a post-op fall. Ultimately, plaintiff’s knee buckled as a nurse was transferring him to the bedside commode, and he experienced a “hard sit.”  Because of the “hard sit,” plaintiff also claimed his spinal hardware moved and caused injuries, resulting in a second revision surgery, a month-long inpatient rehab, deep vein thrombosis and an infection necessitating a third surgery. Plaintiff also claimed permanent injuries of left leg weakness and an inability to walk without a cane.  The defense presented neurosurgery and nursing experts to opine that the hospital nursing staff met the standard of care in terms of communication, documentation and transfers, and a neurosurgery expert to opine that plaintiff’s injuries were the result of the nerve root injury sustained as a complication of the original laminectomy surgery which removed the cyst from the plaintiff’s spinal cord -- not from the “hard sit” at the commode. The defense argued that all of plaintiff’s post-op problems, including the quadriceps weakness that caused the knee buckling (requiring lifetime use of a cane), as well as spinal fluid leak, wound infection, and deep venous thrombosis, occurred as a result of the failed laminectomy and that these potential complications were made known to plaintiff by his treating neurosurgeon prior to the surgery.

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