June 13, 2014

Clay Edwards and Katherine Kerns Vesely successfully defended an orthopedic surgeon during a jury trial in Clark Circuit Court in Jeffersonville, Indiana.  Plaintiff alleged that the defendant negligently performed a four-level anterior cervical discectomy and fusion involving two corpectomies.  The plaintiff alleged that the surgery went smoothly until the surgeon was placing the screw to attach the plate to the C3 vertebrae, at which time the surgeon attempted to place the screw and, in so doing, the cage was inadvertently pushed forward making contact with the patient’s spinal cord, resulting in paralysis from the neck down.  Edwards and Vesely countered that the defendant’s operative technique complied with the standard of care as the surgeon took all reasonable steps to select a plate that matched the patient’s anatomy and to place the screw into the bone at C3.  The proof demonstrated that when the surgeon attempted to place the screw at C3, the screw, instead, went into the interface between the bottom of the endplate at C3 and the top of the cage at C4.  The surgeon recognized the complication immediately and addressed it appropriately.  A second surgery was attempted within hours to provide more space for the patient’s spinal cord, without success in changing the patient’s quadriplegia.  The defense theory was supported by a Board-certified neurosurgeon and two Board-certified members of the medical review panel, one orthopedic surgeon and one neurosurgeon.  The jury rejected the plaintiffs’ $2.5 million claim for damages and returned a unanimous verdict for the defendant.

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