October 4, 2013

A somewhat high-profile medical malpractice case resulted in a hung jury this week in Virginia. The case involved a Rapidan woman who accused a prominent surgeon of employing a questionable surgical technique, resulting in permanent injuries. Two doctors expressed opposite opinions on the surgical technique during the trial, which may have contributed to the jury’s inability to reach a decision.

The woman underwent carpal tunnel and clavicle surgery in 2011 in Culpepper. During the operation, a surgeon tried to implant a metal plate to stabilize the patient’s clavicle – which had been damaged decades earlier – but was unable to screw in the plate because of the patient’s bone condition. As a result, he used surgical sutures instead to stabilize the plate.

Months later, it was determined that a portion of the woman’s collar bone had been sheared off. The surgeon said this was not due to the sutures, but rather the woman’s osteoporosis. The woman then went to another shoulder surgeon, who removed the metal plate.

To this day, however, she suffers pain due to the permanent injury to her collarbone, and her shoulder remains disfigured. She sued the original orthopedic surgeon for $1 million for the allegedsurgical malpractice.

During the trial, a medical witness for the defense argued that the surgeon’s technique – of suturing the plate into place – was a perfectly suitable option. Another doctor testified for the plaintiff, arguing that the technique was bound to fail, and that the sutures fractured her bones.

The six-member jury deliberated for 11 hours and was unable to reach a verdict.

Medical malpractice is a very complicated area of law in Virginia. Not every negative surgical outcome is caused by medical malpractice, as surgery always involves risks. However, when a surgeon deviates from the accepted standards of care, or when a surgeon shows incompetence or makes errors, this is medical malpractice. Victims of medical malpractice have the right to hold their doctors accountable and obtain compensation for their ongoing medical expenses and pain and suffering.

Victims of surgical or medical malpractice should not be discouraged by this case. It is important to hold negligent medical professionals responsible, and victims should seek legal counsel to learn how to do this.

Source: Star Exponent, “$1M medical malpractice case ends in hung jury,” Rhonda Simmons, Oct. 3, 2013

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