May 12, 2016

Catherine Larson and Kathleen Abke Obtain Unanimous Verdict

This case involved an allegation by Plaintiff that she suffered fractures to two lumbar vertebrae during spine surgery by a St. George orthopedic spine surgeon.  Specifically, the surgeon utilized a relatively new minimally invasive surgical procedure, known as an XLIF, in which he performed an indirect decompression of the L4 and L5 lumbar vertebrae from which Plaintiff suffered with degenerative disc disease, spondylolisthesis, and spinal canal stenosis. The surgeon place a “cage” to elevate the vertebral discs, as well as a plate and two screws to hold the vertebrae in place to allow the body to naturally fuse the bones together. The plaintiff had a pre-existing diagnosis of osteoporosis, which Plaintiff claimed was a contraindication to the surgery. Plaintiff’s expert claimed that a different surgical procedure was indicated. Four days following the surgery, Plaintiff fell in the hospital. Five days later, a CT scan revealed the fractured lumbar vertebrae. Plaintiff required a second, more extensive, surgery to repair the fractures. Plaintiff argued that the fractures occurred at the time of surgery. Plaintiff suffered a nerve injury, resulting in drop foot.

 

The defense argued that the surgery was indicated in this patient, despite her osteoporosis and was performed correctly, alleging that x-rays taken in the operating room did not reveal fractures. The defense further argued that the fall in the hospital was the actual cause of the fractures. There was a dispute among experts as to whether an x-ray taken the day before the fall showed the fractures, which experts on both sides disputed. The defense expert agreed that Plaintiff’s drop foot resulted from the fractures, arguing that the cause was not related to the surgery at issue.

 

The jury deliberated for less than an hour, returning a unanimous verdict for the defense that the surgeon did not breach the applicable standard of care.