A Cole County, Mo., jury returned a $340,000.00 verdict for a medical negligence victim who suffered an injured collar bone during a botched pacemaker implantation surgery. The venue is widely considered to be very difficult for plaintiffs, particularly in medical negligence cases.
Vic Bergman and David DeGreeff successfully pursued the case against Jefferson City, Mo., interventional cardiologist Jeffrey Sanders, MD. While injuring the plaintiff’s clavicle during the May 2010 implant procedure, Dr. Sanders implanted the lead wires in the wrong vein. Our client, a 63-year-old farmer, cried out in pain during the surgery. But the medical records made no mention of that, or of the severe pain, he experienced on discharge from the hospital.
Plaintiff’s urgent calls to Dr. Sanders’ office over the following weeks complaining of pain at the implant site were documented: “It hurts horribly bad;” “Can’t take much more;” “So severe was on his hands and knees.” But the defendant only ordered a chest x-ray, prescribed Xanax, and on one occasion waited to see the plaintiff at a scheduled appointment five weeks later, at which Dr. Sanders sent him to physical therapy. The pain subsided in intensity during the following year but was always significant upon exertion.
In May 2011, the plaintiff was doing some physical work around his farm and suddenly suffered deep vein thrombosis (“DVT”) in his entire left upper extremity, requiring surgery. The clavicular injury had caused a “periosteal reaction,” a bony growth, which eventually compressed the subclavian vein and caused a DVT. At trial, both the plaintiff and defense experts agreed the DVT was directly related to the clavicular injury during the implant procedure. Ultimately, the plaintiff had the pacemaker surgically removed at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in August of 2011 and had another one implanted on the other side. That improved the situation greatly.
Dr. Sanders admitted he injured the plaintiff’s clavicle, and that the DVT and removal of the pacemaker resulted from that, but contended this is a complication that can occur even with acceptable technique. He argued the plaintiff’s problem was hard to diagnose because the plaintiff’s reports of symptoms were inconsistent. He denied any fault. The plaintiffs made no claim for lost income or loss of earning capacity. The only economic damages claimed by plaintiffs were medical bills totaling about $115,000.00, with payments made of about $57,000.00 to satisfy the bills. The jury was given both figures by agreement.
We tried to engage the defendant in settlement discussions, but he refused to make an offer. During the weeklong trial, plaintiffs called experts in cardiac electrophysiology and radiology, as well as our client’s current treating cardiologist. The defendant called a cardiology expert, the director of the University of Missouri at Columbia’s cardiac electrophysiology fellowship program.
The jury deliberated for six hours before returning a 9-3 verdict, awarding our client his past paid medical expenses of $57,000.00, $200,000.00 for past non-economic damages, $57,000.00 for future economic damages, and $25,000.00 in past non-economic damages for our client’s wife’s loss of consortium claim.