A case in which alleged negligence and a subsequent misdiagnosis caused a 67-year-old woman to become paralyzed has been settled for $1.9 million, according to the woman’s attorney.
The attorney, Steve Gugenheim of Raleigh, withheld many details of the case pursuant to a confidentiality agreement. The settlement was reached during mediation.
According to Gugenheim, the woman, now 71, went to the hospital after falling at home. After being discharged, the following day, she went to another hospital — a defendant in this case — after becoming confused and disoriented. A CT scan revealed a subarachnoid hemorrhage, Gugenheim said, and the woman was admitted to the hospital and placed on fall intervention management, which included, among other things, the use of a bed alarm.
On her third day in the hospital, Gugenheim said that the woman “was found lying on the floor” and that several staff members put her back into bed. Following the fall, the woman began to develop neurological deficits, including urine retention and leg weakness. Within two days, her left leg was flaccid and she gradually, over the course of the day, lost control of her lower extremities. She was unable to tolerate an MRI, so a hospitalist scheduled one for the following day. As her condition worsened, the hospitalist was notified but told the nursing staff that the MRI would be performed the following morning.
It was, and that MRI revealed a broken DISH fracture and spinal cord compression. According to Gugenheim, that’s when the hospitalist called an orthopaedic surgeon for the first time. The woman underwent emergency surgery after complaining of numbness from the waist down, but Gugenheim said the woman remains paralyzed today.
She sued the hospitalist for failing to timely recognize signs of spinal cord compression, and the hospital for failing to ensure that all appropriate fall risk interventions were in place and functioning. Specifically, she learned during discovery that at the time of her fall, her bed alarm was not turned on.
Since the incidents, the woman has resided in a skilled nursing facility. In addition to her paralysis, the woman suffers from diabetes and chronic kidney disease, Gugenheim said.
SETTLEMENT REPORT – MEDICAL MALPRACTICE
Amount: $1.9 million
Injuries alleged: Paralysis
Case name: Confidential
Mediator: James Llewellyn of Atlantic Beach
Date: Nov. 13
Most helpful experts: Cregg Ashcraft, M.D., of Columbus, Ohio (hospitalist medicine); Patricia Quigley, Ph.D., of St. Petersburg, Florida (fall prevention); and James Lowe, M.D., of Linwood, New Jersey (neurosurgery)
Attorney for plaintiff: Steve Gugenheim of Raleigh
Attorney for defendant: Confidential
Follow Heath Hamacher on Twitter @NCLWHamacher