The plaintiff, a 38 year-old licensed practical nurse, was injured in a car accident on her way home from work. She had an obvious fracture of her femur shaft (thigh bone). She was transported to the hospital where the defendant performed surgery to repair the femur shaft fracture.
In the course of surgery, he also found and repaired a displaced fracture of the femur neck (hip bone). The femur shaft fracture healed well, but within a couple of weeks after the defendant’s surgery, the femur neck fracture repair showed signs of failing.
The plaintiff underwent a second surgery by another orthopedic surgeon to attempt to repair the femur neck fracture, which repair also failed. Ultimately, the plaintiff required a hip replacement. She also had knee arthroscopy surgery, allegedly related to the hip fracture and its treatment.
Plaintiff has permanent activity restrictions and will require one to two additional hip replacement surgeries in her lifetime. Plaintiff claimed that defendant negligently caused the hip fracture during his surgery and negligently repaired it using inadequate hardware and leaving it in an improper position, dooming it to failure.
Plaintiff argued that, in the alternative, if the hip fracture pre-existed the surgery, the defendant negligently failed to diagnose it pre-operatively and therefore caused it to become displaced in the surgery, leading to the complications and failure to heal.
The defense contended that the hip fracture occurred in the car accident but was not diagnosed because it was a non-displaced occult fracture that could not be appreciated by exam or standard x-rays. The defense acknowledged that the hip fracture became displaced during the defendant’s surgery but maintained that it was timely recognized and appropriately treated, reducing the risk of complications.
The defense successfully argued that the plaintiff’s injuries and subsequent complications were all caused by the motor vehicle trauma and the bad nature of the hip fracture and not by the conduct of the defendants.