Spinal Fusion Surgery
09 May 2018

After Botched Spinal Fusion Surgery, Man Wins $2.25M In New Jersey Trial

A State Court jury in New Jersey has awarded $4.5 million in compensation to a man who waited nearly 2 years to learn that he had undergone an allegedly mishandled spinal fusion surgery, the New Jersey Law Journal reports. The plaintiff, a forklift mechanic prior to his injuries, will receive $2.25 million; attorneys in the case hammered out a high-low agreement after closing arguments in the four-week trial, held before Superior Court judge Robert Mega.

New Jersey Worker Secures $2.25M In Surgery Malpractice Case

The man suffered a major disc herniation at work in 2008, which resulted in severe back pain. About 3 years later, he underwent a lumbar fusion surgery, in which two surgeons, neurosurgeon Marvin Friedlander and orthopedist Douglas Bradley, connected his vertebrae together with a permanent bond.

Doctors Performing Spinal Surgery

Something went wrong, however. The doctors, the lawsuit contends, implanted a pedicle screw in the wrong place. The patient says he began to experience pain, numbness and weakness in his right leg, because the misplaced screw had come to impinge on a nerve root. But even though he brought these symptoms to the attention of his neurosurgeon, the man claims that Dr. Friedlander failed to order any follow-up scans for almost 2 years.

Surgeon Failed To Diagnose Mistake, Lawsuit Claims

When the patient finally underwent a battery of tests, radiologists confirmed that the pedicle screw had been placed incorrectly. To add insult to injury, the allegedly botched surgery had been insufficient to fuse the man’s vertebrae together. The patient was forced to undergo a revision surgery four months later.

Over the course of a four-week malpractice trial, defense attorneys attempted to convince the New Jersey jury that their clients had done nothing wrong. In his complaint, the plaintiff argued that Drs. Friedlander and Bradley had violated the standard of care in their profession by implanting the pedicle screw incorrectly. He further argued that, in failing to order a CT or MRI scan after the surgery, Dr. Friedlander had violated the relevant standard of care a second time.

Defense Counsel Denies Allegations

To counter these assertions, defense counsel argued that the surgeons had followed appropriate procedures in performing the surgery, while also casting doubt on the plaintiff’s injury claims. The man’s symptoms (radiating pain in his right leg, numbness in his calf) weren’t consistent with an impinged nerve root, the attorneys said.

New Jersey Jury Awards $4.5 Million In Damages

As we now know, the jury was unconvinced. In a verdict announced on April 6, 2018, the jury ordered Drs. Friedlander and Bradley to pay the plaintiff $4.5 million in compensation. Jurors said that Dr. Friedlander should bear 75% of the liability, while the remaining 25% fell on Dr. Bradley’s shoulders for the serious medical error.

The verdict accounts for $123,000 in medical expenses, $2 million for lost wages and $2.4 million for pain, suffering and loss of the enjoyment of life. In the end, though, the man will actually receive $2.25 million in damages, a sum that is to be paid in equal shares by Drs. Friedlander and Bradley. Before the verdict, plaintiff’s attorneys entered a high-low agreement with defense counsel in an attempt to balance the risk of trial.

What Is A High-Low Agreement?

As the agreement stated, the plaintiff would receive a minimum of $525,000, regardless of the jury’s decision. In exchange for this guaranteed payment, plaintiff agreed that, even in the event of a higher verdict, the defendants would be on the hook for no more than $2.25 million. High-low agreements are a common alternative to settlement, especially when the defense is unsure of their argument and fears that a jury verdict in favor of the plaintiff could outstrip their insurance coverage.

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