Tibbitts vs. Orthopedic Surgeon

  • Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois (Berman)01/25/2008
    Counsel: Mark M. Burden
    Client: Defendant Orthopedic Surgeon
    Outcome: Defense Verdict

Synopsis:

The defendant performed an elective two level spine fusion to treat the plaintiff’s chronic low back pain. The plaintiff at the time of surgery was a 33-year old baggage handler for United Airlines.

Plaintiff initially did well after the fusion, but then the fusion failed, which is a recognized complication of the procedure. The plaintiff underwent a subsequent surgical procedure by another surgeon to revise the fusion, and unfortunately after that the plaintiff developed a significant infection, which led to four additional surgical procedures.

The plaintiff claimed that his ability to perform a job as a baggage handler was significantly impaired and he missed seven years of work after the initial surgery, but by the time of trial he had to return to work on a part-time basis. The plaintiff also claimed that because of the alleged negligence he now suffers from permanent, chronic and disabling back pain and left radiculopathy.

The plaintiff’s experts testified at trial that the fusion procedure was not indicated and should not have been performed because the defendant physician did not prescribe a sufficient course of conservative treatment prior to surgery.

The defense successfully argued that the plaintiff’s long standing history of chronic back pain and prior treatment by other physicians over a significant period of time, along with positive radiographic imaging studies formed a sufficient basis to recommend a fusion procedure to treat the patient’s condition.

The jury deliberated for about three hours before rendering a verdict in favor the defendant.