Jurors Award $745K in Indiana Medical Malpractice Lawsuit

Jurors in an Indiana medical malpractice lawsuit ruled against a now-deceased physician accused of performing an allegedly unnecessary surgery on a 16-year-old athlete. 

The South Bend Tribune reports the lawsuit was filed in June 2015. The defendant physician died about a year later, but the case continued against his estate. The plaintiffs alleged their athlete son underwent a shoulder surgery he did not need, resulting in pain that will follow him the rest of his life. A two-day trial resulted in jurors deciding an award for $744,000 to be paid to the family. The boy reportedly suffered a wrestling injury and sought treatment.

Although he did not initially seek medical attention, the pain later became unbearable. The physician reportedly recommended surgery for the low-grade injury, involving an operation to remove part of his clavicle. The plaintiffs’ attorney now says the choice the doctor gave them – have surgery or live with the pain – was a “false one” because there were numerous other conservative treatment options that could have been employed first. It was not a decision that needed to be either-or.

As our Gary medical malpractice lawyers can explain, these cases are not held to the same standards of proof as general negligence cases. Jurors will be asked whether the doctor breached the applicable standard of care for his or her specialty. That means an expert witness with the same education and training must testify to this, asserting that a reasonably prudent doctor in the same situation would have acted differently.

In this case, jurors additionally heard depositions taken from the three-member medical review panel that first examined the claim. This is standard in Indiana medical malpractice claims, in which the Indiana Department of Insurance notes either party may request the formation of a medical review panel 20 days after the complaint is filed. The panel is allowed to consider:

  • Medical charts;
  • X-rays;
  • Lab tests;
  • Excerpts of treatises;
  • Depositions of witnesses (including parties); and
  • Any other form of evidence allowable.

The review panel in this case was comprised of orthopedic physicians from around Indiana, and they concluded more conservative treatment options – such as steroid injections – should have been taken first before surgery.

The defendant’s lawyer argued that just because other doctors would have made a different decision doesn’t necessarily mean it was medical malpractice. Furthermore, he alleged the family chose surgery because they wanted their son to return to sports as soon as possible, and they were aware of the possible risks of surgery. Their son also reportedly had scar tissue from other injuries that could have been the culprit for his pain.

Ultimately, the jury disagreed.

Although $744,000 sounds like a lot, it should be noted the maximum amount one can receive under Indiana’s medical malpractice damages cap is $1.65 million.One of the lowest damages caps in the nation, that’s still up from $1.25 million, which was the damages cap for 10 years prior to 2015. Doctors are only responsible for the first $250,000 in damages, with a limit of no more than $750,000 annually. The difference between that and the damages cap limit is paid for by the Indiana Patient Compensation Fund.

In this case, the family asked for $10,000 per year for what would be the remainder of the teen’s expectant life span, which would be 62 years. Jurors awarded him $12,000 annually.

Indiana Medical Malpractice Attorney Burton A. Padove handles personal injury claims throughout northern Indiana, including Highland, Gary and Hammond. Call Toll Free 877-446-5294.

Additional Resources:

$744,000 verdict against South Bend orthopedic surgeon, May 20, 2017, By Lincoln Wright, South Bend Tribune

More Blog Entries:

Mottershaw v. Ledbetter – Improper Evidence Exposure in Injury Case, Feb. 25, 2017, Gary Medical Malpractice Attorney Blog

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