Medical Malpractice Case Studies
It is important to appreciate that in the majority of settlements involving medical malpractice a key document concluding any out of court settlement, drafted by the physicians’ defense organization (the CMPA), includes a clause for confidentiality. This confidentiality extends beyond the compensation agreed upon, to include the identity of the individual physicians and the existence of the agreement to settle.
The following is a cross-section of cases currently being litigated and/or investigated:
- Mismanaged birth resulting in the severely brain-damaged baby
- Failure to respond to poor neonatal screening tests resulting in kernicterus (brain injury to the baby)
- Failure to diagnose a rare, but treatable, conditions resulting in the client unlikely to work again
- Poor neonatal (newborn baby) care resulting in a loss of limb
- Delay in the diagnosis of benign brain tumor resulting in loss of vision
- Delay in diagnosis and treatment of hypertension (increased blood pressure) resulting in the requirement for life long renal dialysis
- Poorly performed rhizotomy leading to spinal cord injury
- Poor care by anesthetist during “routine” spinal surgery leading to severe, permanent brain damage
- Cosmetic procedure which has caused significant scarring and permanent pain
- Failure to investigate and treat a continuous leak of spinal fluid following brain surgery causing infection and permanent brain damage
- Inappropriate and damaging use of epinephrine (adrenaline) causing permanent heart problems.
- Intra operative incidents including stroke and low blood pressure causing permanent brain damage
- Failure to diagnose and treat degenerative conditions
- Poor hip and other joint replacements
- Delay in operation to repair fractures
- Removal of the wrong breast
- Amputation of the wrong leg
The following is a small sample of cases which have been concluded. Names and other identifying factors have been changed:
Neurosurgery – Spinal Fusion
Don was a 56-year-old police officer who had suffered an injury to his knee in a resisted arrest 15 years earlier. He also suffered from a degenerative neck condition and was retired from the force on medical grounds as he was no longer able to meet the physical requirements of a very demanding job. Throughout the last few years of his service, Don had been cultivating a home-based art dealership. He had very close connections with well know local artists. Don had business plans to continue with this business after retirement from the force. In preparation for the next chapter of his life, Don had surgery to his knee. This surgery went well and resulted in decreased pain and increased mobility. Don decided to have surgery to his cervical spine (neck) to treat the deterioration in his bone which was causing pain and numbness in his hands and arms. Unfortunately what was expected to be a two month recovery period turned into five years of complications and set-backs including deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a punctured esophagus and colon, systemic infection, multiple invasive investigations and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The standard of surgery performed by the neurosurgeon was called into question. However, it was the very poor follow up treatment provided to this client that allowed the loosened hardware to pierce the throat, migrate through the body and pierce the bowel (spreading infection along the way) which prompted settlement.
The poor medical care received by Don required a much more extensive spinal fusion at multiple levels of his spine (resulting in less flexibility). Don has been left in permanent pain and disability and suffers from anxiety due to near-death experiences during his prolonged recovery.
This claim resulted in a six figure settlement.
Orthopedic surgery – compartment syndrome
Mike was a 32-year-old father of two who suffered a fracture of his lower leg (both the tibia and fibular bone) when he crashed his ATV (which landed on top of his leg).
Mike was taken to the local hospital for assessment. The double fracture was diagnosed but due to the shortage of surgeons and operating rooms he had to wait 24 hours for surgery. Mike’s surgery required the bone to be “pulled” or extended back into the correct position before reaming and nailing of the bones into place. These factors, coupled with Mike’s young age, muscular build and the nature of the injury increased the risk of Mike developing a complication known as Acute Compartment Syndrome (ACS). ACS is a true medical emergency which if not dealt with promptly is known to cause serious permanent injury to the patient. The very first sign of a developing ACS is pain (out of proportion to the injury). Mike developed increasing pain shortly after surgery and was placed on an intravenous pain killer. His pain continued to increase but was not appropriately dealt with. Mike had been told he would remain in the hospital for 3 – 4 days following surgery. However, there was an acute shortage of beds and Mike was discharged home within 20 hours of the surgery in considerable pain. Once home his pain continued to worsen and he was prescribed morphine to get him through the night.
He was brought back to the hospital the following morning in excruciating pain. ACS was diagnosed but unfortunately, a large majority of the muscle in Mike’s lower leg had already died and had to be surgically removed. Mike suffered with “drop foot” (the inability to flex his ankle/ lift his foot) and walked with an obvious limp – which inevitably placed greater strain on other areas of the body. He required a skin graft to cover the badly damaged area of flesh on his calf. Mike experienced ongoing pain and breakdown of the skin graft.
Mike struggled to maintain his physically demanding job throughout his recovery. His employer was very supportive but it was not reasonable to expect Mike to be able to continue indefinitely in his position of employment given his ongoing pain and disability.
This case resulted in a large six figure settlement against the hospital (including nursing staff).
Renal Cancer – failure to diagnose
Martin was a successful businessman. He had dropped out of school at 17 years of age and started a business that, by the time of his illness at the age of 24 was established and returning a regular profit.
At 22 years of age, Martin started to experience low back pain, loss of appetite, weight loss, and fatigue. In the following weeks, he noted blood-stained urine. He went to his family doctor who was very concerned about these signs and symptoms and sent Martin directly to the hospital for imaging of the kidneys. Martin received a prompt CT scan of both kidneys and was given the all-clear. He was treated for a kidney infection over the course of the next few weeks.
Martin’s pain continued and he was sent for a further CT scan. Unfortunately the same radiologist read the second scan. When comparing it to the first CT scan, taken 6 months earlier, he failed to spot the primary cancer in the left kidney. The second CT was again reported as normal.
The radiologist’s report misled the family doctor for another year who continued to “treat” Martin for suspected infection.
When Martin’s symptoms suddenly worsened his family doctor sent him back to the hospital for a third CT scan. This time, 18 months after the first “clear” CT scan, renal cancer was diagnosed. Unfortunately, the cancer had metastasized (spread) to several internal organs and the spine.
Martin was given a life expectancy of one to three months. He was married with three children under the age of 5 years.
This case resulted in a seven figure settlement.
Postpartum Hypertension – Stroke
Julie was 30 years old when she had her first child. Her pregnancy was marked by a concern of an increase in high blood pressure, for which she was closely monitored. She developed pre-eclampsia in the 30th week of pregnancy. Pre-eclampsia is a condition during pregnancy when the blood pressure raises and there is protein in the urine. This is a serious condition and threatens the life of both the mother and baby. Classic signs are swelling, headaches, fatigue, blurred vision, reduced consciousness. There is no cure for pre-eclampsia. Definitive treatment is by delivery of the baby.
In this case delivery was induced and the baby was delivered safely and in good health. In the hours following delivery Julie’s blood pressure continued to increase. Her body became swollen and she suffered with severe headache, fatigue and blurred vision. Julie was too tired to hold her newborn son without assistance and was given pain killer for her headache.
Despite documented blood pressure readings in excess of 220 systolic and 130 diastolic Julie was discharged home due to an acute shortage of beds.
Within 24 hours of being discharged from hospital Julie suffered a devastating stroke. She was never able to hold her newborn baby and underwent more than a year’s rehabilitation. Julie never regained the use of the right side of her body.
This case resulted in zero compensation for Julie.
This claim was defended by Angela Price-Stephens, who represented the hospital and its staff. This was a pivotal case in Ms. Price-Stephens’ career which prompted her to represent injured individuals, rather than represent the clinicians and receive instructions from insurance organizations.
I cannot thank you enough for your tireless work in pursuing my case. Your expertise has allowed me to start a new life and has given me hope. I can never regain the lost years with my children, but now this [case] is over I can look after myself financially and provide for my children in a way that would never have been possible after the horrific surgery.
Helen and I are so grateful to you, Angela, for the sensitive manner in which you dealt with our claim. You had our confidence from the start. Your candid advice was much appreciated.
Thank you for all your hard work, it really paid off in the end. The effort you spent researching my unusual disease not only inspired confidence but put my and my family’s mind at ease. Your support and understanding through my recovery was and is greatly appreciated. I wish you all the best for you and your family and I thank you again for making my future brighter.
Angela and her caring, dedicated team provided outstanding legal service and support that I could not have imagined possible. In addition to her vast medical knowledge, Angela connected our family with exceptional professionals we required to begin the healing process. There wasn’t a need too small or great that wasn’t attended to by Angela with genuine concern. Angela has been there for us every step, anytime we have needed her – day or night. We feel as though Angela and her team have become a part of our family and Angela is the reason why we can pick up the pieces of our lives and move forward.
I would like to start by thanking you for representing me in my recent medical malpractice claim over the last few years. As expected, at times it was a very overwhelming and stressful situation to be in as the plaintiff in the case. I know, that I was able to get through it, with your assistance and the confidence I had with you representing me. The respect and compassion that you and your firm showed my family and I was sincere and appreciated. I especially, would like to thank your Paralegal, Jenny Chan, for all her assistance. She always kept us informed and if we ever had any questions or concerns they were immediately addressed upon. Again, thank you. I am pleased with the positive outcome of my claim and sincerely appreciate all you did while representing me.
The respect and compassion that you and your firm showed my family and I was sincere and appreciated.
Again, thank you. I am pleased with the positive outcome of my claim and sincerely appreciate all you did while representing me.” Jon M
(Client suffered delayed diagnosis of Compartment Syndrome to lower leg)