$1.6 Million Paraplegia Resulting From Surgical Error

On October 11, the Plaintiff, who was 33 years of age, presented to the Defendant Physician with complaints of low back pain and right sciatic pain.  Her history was significant for a fall that she had suffered in August which was responsible for the complaints.

The Defendant Physician ordered an MRI of the lumbar spine which revealed a large herniated disc at L4-5 with marked impingement on the L5 nerve root on the right.  Accordingly, the Defendant advised the Plaintiff that she had a severe herniated disc with probable fragments at the L4-5 level on the right side which required surgical intervention and excision.

On October 17, the Plaintiff presented to the Defendant Hospital for surgery by the Defendant Physician.  The Defendant, who had previously advised the Plaintiff that she required surgery on the L4-5 disc, posted the Plaintiff for surgery at that level.  On the same day, the Plaintiff was prepared and taken to an operating room.  At that time, the Defendant Physician clearly indicated that he was operating on a herniated disc at L4-5 on the right side with an extruded fragment.  In fact, his pre-operative diagnosis and post-operative diagnosis were exactly the same — an operative procedure at L4-5 on the right with an extruded fragment.  Further, in the procedures section of the operative note, the Defendant Physician stated that he performed a partial hemilaminectomy at L4-5 on the right with excision of a fragmented disc at L4-5 on the right, and excision of a herniated disc with an extruded fragment L4-5 on the left.

However, it is alleged that at the time of surgery, the Defendant failed to count appropriately and never operated on L4-5.  Instead, the Defendant negligently operated at a different level — L3-4 resulting in severe injury to the Plaintiff.  First, the Defendant never addressed the severe herniated disc with the extruded fragment located at L4-5.  Second, the herniated disc causing the symptomatology was manipulated and moved through the course of the surgery above.  Third, the manipulation, operation above, and surgical procedure caused swelling in the area.

Accordingly, when the Plaintiff awakened in the PACU (recovery room), she could not move her legs and could not feel her legs.  In essence, when the Plaintiff awakened from the anesthesia, she was experiencing nerve injury from the negligence of the Defendant Physician.  It is alleged that the Defendant nurses observed the Plaintiff in her state of progressive nerve injury for a full day before they contacted the Defendant Physician.  After further delay by the Defendant Physician, they did not re-operate until October 18.   It is alleged that the re-operation occurred after a post-operative MRI confirmed that he had performed his surgery at L3-4 and not L4-5 as intended and posted.  Accordingly, the Defendant operated a second time removing the herniated disc and extruded fragment at L4-5.

Tragically, the Defendants’ negligence has resulted in a 33-year-old woman who is a partial paraplegic.  In fact, due to the enormous injury which includes a Cauda Equina Syndrome, partial paraplegia, neurogenic bladder as well as neurogenic bowel, the Plaintiff required hospitalization for an extended period of time — until November 1, at which time she was transferred to a chronic rehabilitation facility.  She has undergone subsequent studies including EMG examinations which have confirmed a severe lesion at the level of L4-5.  Currently, it is alleged that the Plaintiff is unable to ambulate in any normal fashion, and suffers with an inability to void (neurogenic bladder as well as neurogenic bowel).  She has been totally disabled from her employment as the direct and proximate result of the negligence of this Defendant, and has essentially had the quality of her life destroyed.