Wier v. Defendant Orthopaedic Surgeon

  • Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois (Hon. Henry Simmons)04/30/2008
    Counsel: Sherri M. Arrigo
    Client: Defendant Orthopaedic Surgeon
    Outcome: Defense Verdict

Synopsis:

Plaintiff, a 35-year-old Chicago police officer, was evaluated in the office by the defendant after he injured his ankle on the job. The defendant diagnosed the plaintiff with a moderate to severe medial ankle sprain and placed a short leg walking cast and recommended a follow-up office visit in one month.

Plaintiff alleged that he called defendant's office three days after the initial visit and complained of excruciating pain and swelling at the top of the cast. Although no office record documented the phone call, defendant did not dispute that plaintiff called the office with complaints of pain based on pharmacy records which showed plaintiff filled a prescription for pain medicine prescribed by defendant on that day.

Defendant testifed that it is not unusal for a patient to complain of some increased pain and swelling after a walking cast is placed and that these complaints typically resolve with elevation, rest and pain medication.

Defendant agreed that the standard of care required an immediate examination if plaintiff had complained of excruciating pain and severe swelling but further testified that his office would have instructed plaintiff to be seen immediately had such complaints been made. The defendant's nurse also instructed the plaintiff to come to the office or go to the emergency room if the pain or swelling persisted.

Plaintiff returned for his scheduled follow-up visit in the office one month later and the cast was removed. The defendant examined the ankle after the cast was removed and found the ankle to be normal.

Plaintiff saw the defendant for a follow-up visit one month after the removal of the cast and complained of increasing pain around the ankle. An examination revealed two small nodules around the ankle. The defendant ordered a venous ultrasound which revealed acute superficial venous thrombosis and acute deep venous thrombosis which the defendant treated with medication.

Plaintiff continued to have complaints of pain and swelling in his leg and the defendant eventually refered plaintiff to his primary care physician and general surgeon who performed a series of vein stripping surgeries in an attempt to relieve the pain and swelling.

Plaintiff alleged that the defendant failed to see the plaintiff in his office when plaintiff called with complaints of pain and swelling three days after the defendant placed the cast. Plaintiff further alleged that as a result of the defendant's failure to evaluate him in the office, defendant failed to diagnose superficial venous thrombosis and deep venous thrombosis, which led to the development of deep venous insufficiency, several vein stripping surgeries and ultimately the development of a chronic regional pain syndrome.

The defense argued that it was within the standard of care to prescribe pain medications and instruct the patient to follow-up given the patient's complaints. The defense further argued that according to the defendant's exams and the venous ultrasound reports, the deep venous thrombosis and superficial venous thrombosis did not develop until after the cast was removed and therefore was not present when plaintiff called defendant's office three days after the cast was placed.

During closing arguments, plaintiff's counsel asked the jury to award the plaintiff over $1.0 million dollars for eight years of lost wages and pain and suffering.

The jury deliberated for 35 minutes before returning a verdict in favor of the defendant.