Sondergaard v. Defendant Physician

Synopsis:

The appellate court affirmed judgment on a jury verdict in a medical negligence action handled on appeal by Donohue Brown's Karen DeGrand and Amanda Balen.

The defendant orthopedic surgeon had performed carpal tunnel release surgery on plaintiff’s left hand; the medical record demonstrated that the surgery was uneventful and plaintiff’s good recovery from the procedure. Years later, another surgeon operated on the same hand and concluded that the defendant injured a nerve during the first surgery. The subsequent surgeon testified at trial to his theory that the defendant caused a nerve injury.

At trial, the defendant rebutted plaintiff’s theory with his own and a retained expert’s testimony explaining that the subsequent treating physician had not reviewed the defendant’s medical records and lacked essential information about defendant’s treatment of the plaintiff and about the plaintiff’s history in the years between the two surgeries.

The defense witnesses testified that the plaintiff’s recovery ruled out the subsequent treater’s theory of injury. In addition, the defendant opined that the injury noted in the second surgery likely occurred during a serious automobile accident that occurred eight months after the first surgery and nearly two years before the second surgery – a fact not considered by plaintiff’s sole medical expert.

The appellate court found that the defense presented sufficient evidence to support the jury’s verdict and was not the result of plaintiff’s claim of evidentiary errors. The defendant’s retained expert, the court found, offered standard of care and causation opinions based on a sufficient factual foundation – the defendant’s medical records. The court also rejected plaintiff’s contention that the jury based its verdict on what the plaintiff contended was speculative testimony concerning the likely cause of plaintiff’s alleged nerve damage. Plaintiff forfeited her objection to this testimony by failing to object to it at trial. In the court’s view, regardless of the “other causes” opinion testimony, the evidence sufficiently supported the verdict.

Practice