San Francisco Doctor Sued After Man Loses Hand Function, Part 4 of 4

The following blog entry is written to illustrate an example of a medical malpractice case. Reviewing this kind of lawsuit should help potential plaintiffs and clients better understand how parties in personal injury cases present such issues to the court. It is worth noting that situations similar to those described in this medical malpractice case could just as easily occur at any of the healthcare facilities in the area, such as Kaiser Permanente, UCSF Medical Center, San Francisco General, California Pacific Medical Center, or St. Francis Memorial Hospital.

(Please also note: the names and locations of all parties have been changed to protect the confidentiality of the participants in this personal injury case and its proceedings.)

Serri also called the expert in plastic and reconstructive surgery, his treating plastic surgeon, who testified that Serri’s was an odd case, as the expert was unaware of any case involving tendon rupture after a trigger finger procedure. The expert testified that the tendons were unusually inflamed and abnormal in appearance from the point of the rupture and along the length of the finger to its tip. The expert was unsure what might have caused the ruptures, but listed trauma, rheumatoid or metabolic disease, including gout or pseudo-gout, and corticosteroids as possible causes. The expert considered whether the tendons were lacerated during surgery, but testified that it was improbable.

Stevens denied Serri’s allegations. The defense orthopedic hand specialist testified that Stevens complied with the applicable standard of care in all aspects. The defense hand expert refuted the opinion that Stevens, a highly experienced surgeon, cut two flexor tendons by noting that Stevens had used a standard and recognized approach to perform a minor procedure in the palm with the hand in extension and in an aluminum hand holder.

The defense hand specialist testified that it would be exceedingly difficult to cut two flexor tendons with scissors in the extremely limited space at the edge of the A2 pulley. He disputed the mechanism of injury postulated by the plaintiff, explaining that such a laceration could not occur by accident, but would require a conscious effort on the surgeon’s part. He testified that no experienced surgeon would blindly operate in a location of the hand which was not indicated and could not be visualized.

Defense counsel contended that there was no evidence that Stevens or his staff had advised Serri on April 28 that swelling and redness were normal and that he did not have to worry about it or come in to be seen. Counsel contended that swelling and redness after surgery are red flags for potential infection and that, had Serri indicated such symptoms, he would have been advised to see the doctor immediately.

Stevens testified that, had Serri followed through with the reconstructive surgery originally scheduled for June 2, 2006, he would have had a good chance of a successful recovery and functional use of his finger.

For more information you are welcome to contact Sacramento personal injury lawyer, Moseley Collins.

Defense experts testified that, in retrospect, the potential causes of the tendon ruptures were blunt, sharp or crush trauma, corticosteroids, or rheumatoid or metabolic disease. The sources of the potential trauma were identified as either a September 2005 work-related injury involving steel that cut the plaintiff’s right hand, which he failed to report to Stevens in March 2006, or injury sustained as a consequence of lifting heavy steel plates three weeks prior to seeing Stevens again on May 25, 2006.

Serri claimed past and future wage loss, including union pension benefits, costs of educational retraining and recovery of past medical expenses and insurance premiums in excess of $2 million. Counsel for Serri asked the jury for $250,000 in general damages and approximately $1.3 million in special damages.

The defense vocational rehabilitation expert gave alternative vocational plans, including a return to millwright work, had Serri mitigated his damages by following through with reconstructive surgery on June 2, 2006, as Stevens testified had been his expectation for successful and maximum recovery. The expert gave alternative vocational plans, including training to become a draftsman, transferring Serri’s skills to an industrial subset of millwright work.

For more information you are welcome to contact Sacramento personal injury lawyer, Moseley Collins.

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