Sometimes, a client’s condition will improve after we start the case. When I first met my client, he could not shake my hand. Ever since he had surgery on his elbow, he had suffered a significant loss of the motor and sensory functions in his right hand. He had undergone a fairly routine surgery for the repair of a ruptured bicep tendon. He was meeting with me just a month after the surgery after a physician family friend recommended he consult with a lawyer. I didn’t know if this was a malpractice case or not – as with every case, I needed to speak with an expert.
My first action was to review the case with an orthopedic surgeon, who was specially certified in hand and upper extremity surgery. He recommended that my client goes to Mayo Clinic to be evaluated for nerve injury and possible nerve repair surgery. My client agreed to this advice. Sure enough, the surgeon at Mayo Clinic diagnosed a severe nerve injury. He planned a surgery to explore that area of the previous surgery, and, if needed, to repair any nerve injury. When he opened the area where the first surgery had been performed, he found the nerve to be completely cut and mangled. He then performed microscopic surgery to graft the severed nerve together.
Now it was time for me to go into action. I filed a lawsuit against the surgeon and took his deposition. During the deposition, we learned that he was using for the first time a special medical device designed to fix the ruptured tendon. He had never even inspected the device until the day of the surgery when he met the sales representative for the device manufacturer in the operating room. We were also able to prove that the doctor breached an accepted standard of care by drilling into the arm at an improper angle. Surgeons know that the nerve runs along the back of the elbow bones. To avoid injuring this nerve, the surgeon must drill at a specific angle. The proof was in the x-rays taken during and after the surgery. The X-rays showed that the doctor failed to drill at the proper angle and as a result, he hit the nerve with his drill and mangled it.
Fortunately for my client, the nerve repair surgery at Mayo brought some improvement. He was able to shake my hand, but he was still going to have permanent deficits in the use and feel of his hand for the rest of his life. To prove the extent of this damage, we hired an occupational therapist to evaluate my client at home and at work. At mediation, the case settled for a confidential six-figure amount.