Medical Malpractice Failure To Diagnose Spinal Injury - $2,900.000

Injuries alleged: Tetraplegia
Court: Withheld
Amount of settlement: $2.9 million

Case Summary:
Plaintiff, age 62, was admitted to emergency department after she was involved in a motor vehicle accident wherein her vehicle was struck in the rear. Upon admission to the emergency department, the plaintiff was complaining of neck and bilateral shoulder pain. The emergency room physician ordered X-rays of the plaintiff's cervical spine, amongst other studies, and reviewed the plain film studies himself, which he called normal except for "degenerative joint disease." As a result, the plaintiff's cervical spine was "cleared" by the emergency room physician, and plaintiff was discharged with a diagnosis of acute cervical muscle strain.

Six days later, plaintiff was brought back by ambulance to the same emergency department, on a backboard and with a cervical collar in place. The emergency department triage records noted the motor vehicle accident of six days before, plaintiff's continued complaints of head and neck pain, and the fact that the plaintiff could not feel her arms, was suffering visual and auditory hallucinations, and had spasms in her arms, legs, and body. The triage nurse also documented limited handgrip bilaterally and an inability of the plaintiff to lift her arms. The emergency room doctor noted that a radiologist had never read the cervical spine films performed six days earlier, and as a result, a radiologist reviewed them for the first time that day, also calling them essentially normal. The emergency room doctor then ordered a CT scan of the plaintiff's neck but then canceled it and performed no imaging whatsoever of the plaintiff's cervical spine that day and admitted the plaintiff to the hospital as an in-patient with a single diagnosis of altered mental status secondary to a medication she was taking.

Two days later, the plaintiff was noted to have no use of her arms and legs and was medflighted to a Boston hospital. Despite treatment to stabilize her spine and surgery, the plaintiff remains tetraplegic to this day.

Plaintiff was prepared to call experts in Emergency Medicine, Radiology and Neurosurgery to testify that the first emergency room physician and the radiologist who reviewed the plaintiff's cervical spine plain films failed to recognize abnormalities at C5-6 suggestive of ligamentous injury, which required further imaging studies which would have resulted in the timely diagnosis and treatment of plaintiff's cervical spine injury. Additionally, plaintiff's experts were prepared to testify that the second emergency room physician departed from applicable standards of care by failing to have performed any diagnostic imaging studies of the plaintiff's cervical spine when she came back with new and lingering symptoms suggestive of a neurological injury. The case settled four weeks prior to the scheduled trial date, which had been accelerated by a Motion for a Speedy Trial.