Our client worked as a medication technician in a local hospital. Her primary job responsibilities were to open medication bottles and dispense medication to patients. At the age of 55, she was suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome, and she went to an orthopedic surgeon for carpal tunnel surgery.
During surgery, the doctor cut the nerve between her wrist and her hand. He realized what had happened and attempted to repair it immediately. However, our client suffered permanent damage to her right ring finger and pinky.
Doctor’s Defense Fails at Trial
The doctor defended his actions by claiming that cutting through that nerve was a known risk of carpal tunnel surgery. He claimed he did the surgery correctly and that our client must have had an anatomical anomaly that put the nerve in an unexpected location.
Attorney Matthew Lathrop was unwilling to accept the doctor’s defense without consulting an expert witness. He hired an expert witness from Arizona. This witness was not only a carpal tunnel surgeon who was very familiar with the procedure and equipment used in our client’s case, but he was also involved in early testing of the equipment.
According to the expert’s testimony, there are only a certain number of ways this nerve can be cut during this type of carpal tunnel surgery. He maintained that everyone’s carpal tunnel is in the same place unless it is affected by things like prior injury or prior surgery, and those factors would be known by looking at a patient’s medical records. Otherwise, the nerve is in the same place for everyone, which allows a doctor to do a closed procedure for carpal tunnel release, as was done in the case of our client.
At trial, Matthew presented a big board to the jury. The board listed the known reasons for unusual anatomy—leading to a cut nerve. One by one, he went through the possibilities on the board with the defendant doctor during cross-examination. Matthew asked the surgeon about every possibility that could have led to our client having an anatomical anomaly in the location of her nerve. If any of these possibilities existed, then the surgeon would have made a mistake performing a closed carpal tunnel procedure. The surgeon had no choice but to answer no to each of Matthew’s questions and admit that the only way the nerve could have been cut was due to the surgeon’s own negligence.
The jury returned a verdict of $175,000 for our client.
Decision Affirmed by the Nebraska Supreme Court
The surgeon felt that there were errors at trial and appealed the trial court’s decision to the Supreme Court of Nebraska. The Supreme Court disagreed with the surgeon and affirmed the lower court’s decision in favor of our client.
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If you’ve suffered a physical injury because of a medical mistake, we invite you to contact our experienced personal injury lawyers for a free, no-obligation consultation. We can thoroughly investigate your claim, hire the right expert witnesses, and fight for your fair and just recovery.