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Attorneys Mark Williams and Bret Hanna Receive Six-Figure Award in Arbitration

06/16/2010

Jones Waldo attorneys Bret Hanna and Mark Williams announce a six-figure arbitration award in a case against one of Utah’s largest medical group. Hanna and Williams, members of the firm’s Personal Injury & Medical Malpractice Group, represented their client in seeking damages for pain and suffering and loss of consortium due to a failed back fusion surgery in 2005.

The client reported that after the surgery, a review of a routine CT scan done to check on hardware placement, showed that two pedicle screws had encroached into the spinal canal, which can cause pain and weakness/motor loss. Although the client reported those very symptoms immediately after surgery, the doctor decided on a “wait and see” strategy. The client continued to report increased pain, new leg pain and leg weakness at her one month follow-up, but the doctor never said a word about the screw placement. He did tell her she was experiencing normal post operative pain from the rigors of the procedure and that she would continue to improve. He told her to follow-up in six months—about a month later, he moved his practice out of state.

The client did as she was told and tried to manage the pain over the ensuing months. At the six-month follow-up at the medical center where the original doctor had practiced, the client was told that another surgery was needed. At that point, having lost confidence in the medical center, the client sought a second opinion. The new doctor indicated some progress and said to give it some more time. He also told her he could not be her doctor due to insurance issues. A third doctor was recommended. This doctor, upon reviewing the client’s history, opined that the misplaced screws were the source of at least some of her ongoing problems. He performed a surgery to remove and revise the hardware and repair the fusion. The second fusion attempt failed (without malpractice) so he did a third surgery which was a success.

Since even now, the client continues to have ongoing pain and weakness issues with her back that pre-date the first surgery, the challenge to Hanna and Williams was to sort out what symptoms were attributable to the screw placement and which were attributable to other causes. Although misplaced screws are a normal risk of back fusion surgery and not malpractice in and of itself, the failure to monitor the client’s progress, continued pain and not to remove the screws when her symptoms persisted, was by definition, malpractice. Due to the doctor’s negligence, by the six month mark, the symptoms of leg pain and weakness were permanent.

After two-days of arbitration in May, retired Judge Tim Hanson awarded the client a six-figures award for pain and suffering and loss of consortium related to the malpractice.