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PPM Secures 44th Consecutive Upper Extremity Nerve Damage Verdict

February 15, 2018

Court recognized upper extremity nerve injuries can occur absent negligence.

Overland Park, Kansas – February 15, 2018 – Preferred Physicians Medical (PPM), industry-leading provider of professional liability insurance for anesthesia practices, announced that a Maricopa County, Arizona judge recently granted a directed verdict in favor PPM’s insured anesthesiologist.

A 59 year-old male underwent a coronary artery bypass graft (CABG X 4). The patient was positioned supine. His arms were wrapped in gel pads and tucked with his palms to his thighs by the nursing staff. Following the surgery the patient was taken to recovery and then transferred to the ICU.

On the morning of the first post-operative day the patient complained of numbness in his 4th and 5th fingers of his right hand. EMG testing approximately six weeks later diagnosed a lesion across the elbow at the cubital tunnel. The patient underwent cold laser therapy provided by a chiropractor and was released to return to work approximately three months following his surgery.

Two months later the patient reported to his chiropractor that he had fallen asleep with his arm bent at the elbow and re-injured his ulnar nerve. Over the next several years he underwent a carpal tunnel release and several surgeries on his right hand. The patient attributed all subsequent surgeries to his ulnar nerve injury.

The plaintiff filed a lawsuit naming the surgeon, anesthesiologist and hospital as defendants alleging partial paralysis in his right arm as a result of improper positioning or padding of his arm, or allowing his arm to fall off the operating room table. The surgeon was subsequently dismissed from the lawsuit.

Prior to trial plaintiff made a $350,000 demand to PPM’s insured anesthesiologist. PPM’s insured anesthesiologist was determined to defend his care. The case proceeded to trial against PPM’s insured anesthesiologist and the hospital.

Plaintiff’s anesthesiology expert from St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center, Brighton, MA testified that it is common for patient’s arms to fall off the operating room table during surgery, although he did not believe that is what occurred in this case. He also testified the anesthesiologist is responsible for making sure the patient remains neurologically intact during surgery. Dr. Lovich testified an ulnar nerve injury would not have occurred if reasonable care had been provided by the anesthesiologist. He testified further that the anesthesiologist can ensure no ulnar nerve injury occurs by making sure the patient is padded and positioned appropriately. Dr. Lovich also testified that if PPM’s insured anesthesiologist had appropriately supervised the nurses the injury would not have occurred.

The defense anesthesiology expert testified that ulnar nerve injuries can, and do, occur in cases where everything is done correctly. There was nothing in the medical record to indicate the patient was padded or positioned inappropriately. The defense expert testified the standard of care was met and the plaintiff’s injury had resolved, as demonstrated on EMG studies.

Following an eight-day jury trial, the judge granted a directed verdict in favor of PPM’s insured anesthesiologist ruling the plaintiff failed to prove his case. The jury returned a defense verdict in favor of the hospital.

Gary Fadell, Esq., Fadell Cheney & Burt, Phoenix, AZ tried the case. Shelley Strome, Senior Claims Specialist, managed the case on behalf of PPM.

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