DBMS secured a verdict for the defense in a high-stakes claim of $68 million against a neurosurgeon.
The case centered on a 39-year-old woman who was referred to the defendant neurosurgeon because of a sacral cyst causing back and buttock pain. The defendant performed surgery to remove the cyst on June 21, 2011, and the woman was discharged two days later.
In the 10 days following, the woman’s mother called the doctor twice saying her daughter had severe headaches and redness around the incision. Both times instructions were given for the patient to go to the ER or be admitted to the hospital; however, she did not follow those instructions.
On July 5, the woman presented at the hospital and was admitted with a history of an external cerebral spinal fluid leak for the past week. The defendant ordered a CT scan of her brain and lumbar spine and confirmed pseudomeningocele, a collection of cerebral spinal fluid in the sacral spine, in the area where her cyst was removed.
Over the next two days the defendant performed a blood patch and drained the pseudomeningocele to provide pain relief. On July 8, the plaintiff’s pain returned, and the defendant ordered another CT scan, as well as antibiotics and antivirals to treat suspected meningitis.
When returning from the CT scan, the plaintiff had an alteration in her level of consciousness and was transferred to the neuro-intensive care unit. A few hours later, her oxygen level dropped. She was immediately intubated and given Decadron to reduce brain swelling. A subsequent CT scan showed cerebral edema and tonsillar herniation. When the edema persisted, a craniectomy was performed to reduce the swelling. Despite the medical and surgical treatment the patient suffered brain damage and resultant quadriplegia.
The plaintiff’s attorney argued that the woman should not have been discharged from the hospital on June 23; that the initial CT scan on July 8 was not read properly; and that the defendant should have started medication or taken the patient to surgery sooner following the scan.
DBMS argued that the plaintiff developed an external cerebral spinal fluid leak while at home which allowed a pathway for bacteria to enter her body and caused meningitis. DBMS further argued that the defendant followed standard of care in all situations and that the scan was properly read. Further, despite appropriate care, the meningitis caused the patient to develop cerebral edema, tonsillar herniation and infarction which caused the patient’s brain damage and severe neurologic deficits.
The plaintiff asked for $43 million to $68 million; however, the jury returned a not-guilty verdict.