Eric G. Johnson, Esq., successfully defended a local surgeon in a medical malpractice claim and secured a defense verdict after the jury deliberated for only one hour.
Plaintiff suffered from chronic sinusitis and recurrent nasal polyps, and had undergone two previous laparoscopic sinus surgeries in 2000 and 2005. In March 2003, plaintiff consulted with defendant for consideration of a third laparoscopic sinus surgery because plaintiff’s sinusitis and polyps had worsened and returned. At the final pre-operative visit, defendant discussed a number of potential risks and complications of the surgery with plaintiff, including the possibility of injury to the orbit(s) and orbital structures, and damage to or loss of vision. Plaintiff admitted to this discussion and her understanding of the risks, and signed a consent outlining the risks as well; plaintiff withdrew the claim of lack of informed consent at the outset of the trial.
On April 23, 2008, plaintiff underwent bilateral laparoscopic sinus surgery performed by defendant, which included bilateral ethmoidectomies – removal of polyps and diseased sinus tissue in the ethmoid sinuses, in between the eyes. After complications to the right eye because apparent, defendant immediately called into the OR an ophthalmologist /oculoplastic surgeon to consult. The consulting eye surgeon felt that during the surgery the plaintiff had sustained a fracture of the lamina papyracea, the paper thin bony wall that forms the boundary between the ethmoid sinus and the orbit, and that it had resulted in intraorbital hemorrhage which was then impeding the mobility of the right eye, but would resolve over time. Subsequent CT scans and an MRI showed that not only had the lamina papyracea been fractured, but the medial rectus muscle, which operates to adduct the eye (pull it in towards the nose), had been transected. Plaintiff, who suffers from a permanent outward deviation of the right eye with attendant double vision, loss of depth perception and other visual difficulties consulted with other specialists but ultimately decided the potential risks associated with further surgical intervention outweighed the benefit.
Plaintiffs claimed defendant was negligent in failing to be aware that he had fractured the plaintiff’s lamina papyracea during surgery, and in continuing to operate within the patient’s right orbit, resulting in his transecting the medial rectus muscle and leaving her with a permanent outward deviation of the right eye.
Defendant conceded that the fracture of the lamina papyracea and transection of medial rectus muscle occurred during his 4/23/08 surgery, but argued that those injuries were known risks and complications of the surgical procedure, and that under the circumstances of this case, he was not negligent.
Plaintiff represented by Thomas A. Grue, Esq., of Poissant, Nichols, Grue & Vanier, P.C. 367 West Main Street Malone, NY, demanded $275,000 to settle the claim. The defendant made no offer of settlement.
After a six day trial before Hon. David Demarest in Supreme Court, St. Lawrence County, the jury returned a verdict of no medical malpractice in favor of the defendant after only an hour of deliberation.