The case was initially filed on behalf of Joel Burnette who underwent lumbar epidural steroid injections (LESI) for low back pain in January of 2009 while under the care of Dr. Kimber L. Eubanks of Pain CARE, P.A. In the week following the first LESI Joel developed a lump at the site of the injection. Joel testified that he told the nurses at the pain care center about the lump when he returned for the next injection and was told it was “no big deal.” Doctor and staff vehemently denied that they were told of the lump by Joel or that there was a lump or any abnormality on Joel’s back. Although they maintained there was zero chance that they did so, they (and their experts) agreed that it would be below the standard of care to perform this elective procedure in the face of any sign or symptom of an infection.
Following the second injection over the next seven to eight days Joel developed an epidural abscess, deep tissue infection, and MRSA meningitis. Because of the extent of the infection adjacent to his spinal cord, he was diagnosed with arachnoiditis/cauda equina syndrome, which left him disabled due to nearly constant spine and leg pain, difficulty with ambulation, neurogenic bowel, and impotence.
Joel had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder as a young adult and had a fairly significant psychiatric history. In February of last year, unable to endure the constant physical and emotional pain, Joel took his own life. Scott Nutter and John Parisi Shamberg, Johnson & Bergman brought a wrongful death case on behalf of Joel’s parents as well as survival action on behalf of Joel’s estate. Although Joel took his own life, we contended, and the jury agreed, that his suicide was caused by his underlying medical condition brought about by the negligence of the defendants. As you might imagine the defense disagreed that they had anything to do with Joel’s suicide and maintained that this was simply a tragic event that had nothing to do with.
Although initially indicating that they were going to compare Joel’s fault for not informing the doctor and staff of the lump on his back, that allegation was withdrawn by the defense when they put on their case. In the end, they took the position that there was nothing abnormal to report to the doctors, so Joel could not be at fault for not reporting it.
The jury deliberated for over two days They returned a verdict for the plaintiffs. They awarded $2.88 Million, most to the estate of Joel Burnette. The jury assessed 75% of the fault to Dr. Kimber L. Eubanks and 25% to the staff of Pain CARE, P.A.
The plaintiffs were represented by Scott Nutter, John Parisi, and Daniel Singer of Shamberg, Johnson & Bergman. The case was defended by Bruce Keplinger and Christopher Lucas.