Improper Spinal Surgeries
At an extensive settlement mediation immediately prior to jury selection, Phil Russotti settled a medical malpractice action on behalf of a thirty-seven year old man against his neurosurgeon for improperly performing two spinal fusion surgeries on subluxed vertebrae which subsequently failed resulting in six further surgeries and permanent deformity in his neck. Our client had an underlying neurological disorder known as neurofibromatosis which can affect the ligaments and cause scoliosis. The defense to the case was that the surgeries failed because of our client's underlying medical condition and not due to anything the doctor failed to do.
At the mediation, Phil successfully argued that even assuming defendant was correct, the neurosurgeon should have accounted for plaintiff's condition during his second surgery by providing more stable fixation rather than just wiring the vertebrae. The doctor should have immobilized his neck for at least two months after the surgery so that the bone grafts would take. Phil argued that as a result of the negligent manner in which he operated, the fusions failed, making the subluxations and instability worse. He contended that the departures necessitated six additional surgeries that were performed by subsequent non-party physicians and that the culmination of the instability and need for extensive surgeries superimposed on the underlying weakness caused severe and unrelenting pain, Which at one point required morphine and methadone. Phil further argued that the deviations led to a tilting of the neck which required rods to be placed alongside the spine. After the rods were inserted they began to extrude through the skin and had to be removed resulting in permanent deformity.
Our client had worked as a customs inspector and returned to work approximately one year after his first surgery. He worked for three more years until the pain following the third surgery became so severe that he required morphine and could not work. The plaintiff loved his work and prior to the incident, was very active, having enjoyed scuba diving and snow skiing. Thereafter he had to live a very sedentary lifestyle and suffered severe and unrelenting pain. Finally, at the time of the alleged deviations, he was in a serious relationship with a woman, and his disabilities prevented him from continuing that relationship. We argued that his loss of enjoyment of life had been profound. Our economist would have projected approximately 2.7 million dollars in future lost earnings and 1.5 million dollars in future lost pension benefits. After two full days of mediation before a retired Supreme Court judge the case settled for 6.6 million dollars.