Morrison Mahoney Partner Brent Tingle recently obtained a defense verdict after a 2 week trial in Suffolk Superior Court.
The case involved a middle-aged gentleman who was seen in the Emergency Department at a well-known Boston teaching hospital with complaints of severe low back pain and numbness in one foot. The defendants were a resident and an orthopedic fellow from the Spine Surgery Service who evaluated the plaintiff. He was diagnosed with an exacerbation of known lumbar disc disease and was sent home by the defendants with plans for outpatient followup in three days.
Three days later, just before his follow-up appointment, the patient had a sudden worsening of his condition and developed a rare neurological condition known as cauda equina syndrome. This condition causes compression of nerves at the base of the cervical spine and leads to bowel and bladder incontinence as well as sexual dysfunction. The patient was rushed to surgery and had partial restoration of nerve function but has significant ongoing issues with bowel and bladder function and has no sexual function.
The plaintiff's attorney argued that the plaintiff should have been admitted to the hospital through the Emergency Department at the first visit rather than being sent home. The defense argued that cauda equina syndrome is a rare condition that presents with very specific signs and symptoms that simply were not present in the Emergency Department and that it was unpredictable that these symptoms would develop a few days later. The defense was complicated by the fact that the care at issue dated back more than 5 years and neither defendant had any memory of this patient.