Doc Fails to Order Crucial Tests; Paralyzed Patient Wins $17M

On or about June 4, 2017, Michael Rodgers sustained injuries while riding his motorcycle. Admitted to Charleston Area Medical Center’s (CAMC’s) Level I trauma center, he initially showed no neurologic impairment and was able to feel and move all his extremities…, Doc Fails to Order Crucial Tests; Paralyzed Pt Wins $17M, Wayne J. Guglielmo, MA

A subsequent CT scan revealed, though, that he had incurred a T5 Chance fracture.


On June 6, a neurosurgeon affiliated with CAMC, John Orphanos, MD, instructed Rodgers to wear a back brace for 6 to 8 weeks. Later that day, though, Orphanos changed his course of treatment and recommended that Rodgers undergo surgery to treat his injuries. Despite his new recommendation, the neurosurgeon/spine specialist didn’t order a presurgical MRI of his patient’s thoracic spine. Typically, such a scan would have been used to determine any existing or potential spinal cord problems and any soft-tissue problems in the area of the fracture.


Late on June 6, Orphanos performed a surgery to fuse his patient’s vertebrae from the T2 to the T6 region. Following the procedure, however, Rodgers experienced a complete loss of motor function and sensation in his lower extremities.


Rodgers underwent a second surgery, during which Orphanos performed a T5 laminectomy. The patient’s loss of motor function and sensation persisted, however. He has been experiencing T5-level paraplegia ever since, with complete loss of control of his legs, bowel, and bladder.


In his complaint, Rodgers alleged that Orphanos had repeatedly deviated from the standard of care. Among other things, the plaintiff claimed, Orphanos had failed in both of his surgeries to order the proper preop and postop testing, thereby jeopardizing the outcomes of each procedure. This gross negligence and recklessness, the plaintiff argued, led directly to his permanent and disabling injuries.


Late last month, a West Virginia jury agreed that Orphanos was at fault and awarded Rodgers $17 million in damages.


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