$3.4 Million Settlement for Negligent Diagnosis
In yet another medical malpractice case win for the attorneys at Fronzuto Law Group, we achieved $3,400,000.00 while representing a New Jersey woman harmed by diagnostic negligence and more.
This case began with a seemingly commonplace event – a fractured leg. And yet, what happened in the days thereafter left an otherwise healthy, active woman permanently harmed. As experienced lawyers handling medical malpractice lawsuits in courts throughout New Jersey, we began the challenging journey toward justice on behalf of our client after an intensive investigation revealed multiple mistakes in her diagnosis and treatment.
Where to Begin?
Our client was doing everyday household chores when she fell, an event that caused bruising but soon revealed itself to be something more severe. When she could not walk a day later, she called for paramedics.
Arrival at the hospital and a subsequent leg fracture diagnosis prompted surgery, which proved more difficult and time-consuming than routine operations of this kind. Extreme pain, loss of feeling and sensation, and lack of mobility after the procedure signaled yet another problem, the ultimate diagnosis of which eluded the surgeon who performed the procedure and the nurse who was monitoring the patient during the critical hours in which her condition deteriorated.
Numerous signs of post-surgical complications were observable, noted, and reported by the patient, and yet appropriate testing was left undone. A watch and wait approach won out over the types of diagnostic tests and specialist consult that would have led to a timely diagnosis.
The Underlying Problem
Swelling, coolness, numbness, and decreased sensation in the affected leg and foot were initially attributed to neuropraxia. Such a nerve injury may happen during prolonged surgical intervention, but our client’s symptoms were severe and worsening. In fact, medical expert analysis revealed that the patient’s symptoms, at the very least, called for testing and inclusion of arterial injury in the differential diagnosis.
Despite numerous dismissals of our client’s concerns, notations by nursing staff involved in her care, and even another physician’s warnings, the surgeon who performed the operation refused to order diagnostic testing to further investigate the source of the women’s symptoms. So what was the problem you may ask? Compartment syndrome (CS), a dangerous potential post-surgery complication requiring urgent diagnosis and treatment.
Compartment syndrome occurs when swelling or bleeding in an area of the body increases pressure. The spiral continues when such pressure decreases blood flow, preventing nourishment and oxygen from reaching the muscles. Muscles need a continuous supply of healthy blood to avoid ischemia and cell death. You might have heard of conditions with similar terminology, such as hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, which occurs when a baby’s brain is damaged due to lack of blood and oxygen during birth. Ischemic stroke is yet another complication involving lack of blood and oxygen supply. Still more, cardiovascular ischemia follows a similar line of thinking, this time affecting the heart muscle.
All in all, lack of blood to any part of the body can cause death of the affected cells and tissues. When this occurs in a compartment, the muscle tissue experiencing obstructed blood supply may die, causing permanent disability. As a result, it is critical that compartment syndrome is identified and treated immediately to avoid severe, irreversible disabilities.
A Test Undone, a Diagnosis Unmade, a Patient Left Permanently Injured
In a system as complex as the human body, signs and symptoms can indicate a wide range of medical conditions and injuries. This is where physicians and specialists, along with sophisticated and not-so-sophisticated testing methods, come into play. At the outset, doctors must conduct a thorough patient history and physical examination, noting the patient’s reported and identified symptoms. This, coupled with ordering necessary blood, imaging, biopsy, respiratory, nerve tests, and others, charts the path toward an accurate diagnosis.
Proper diagnostic practice involves a process of elimination known as differential diagnosis. Essentially, more than one condition may be causing a person’s symptoms. Thus, doctors generally begin with more than one potential source of the issues, after which the collection of possibilities is narrowed down to a singular root cause. Even with a working theory on what the source of the person’s problems might be, tests can provide confirmation.
In this case, however, our client’s doctor clearly deviated from the appropriate standard of care. First, it was a departure from the accepted standard of care to fail to recognize and include the potential for arterial injury in his differential diagnosis. Second, failing to order arterial vascular studies or call for a specialist consult when signs of ischemia were present, constitutes negligence.
A significant change in our client’s condition necessitated performing emergent revascularization within six hours from the onset of ischemia. Since her condition was not diagnosed and treated in a timely manner, she did not receive the emergency treatment required. Foregoing tissue-saving treatment cost her an irreversible part of herself, as she later required a below knee amputation. Our client lives today with physical and mental reminders of the profound consequences that medical negligence can cause.
The Legal Battle, the Case Won
This medical malpractice case posed multiple challenges, one of which brought us all the way to the New Jersey Supreme Court. Firm founder Ernest Fronzuto successfully fought for the court’s decision, which required the defendant to produce a narrative directing the plaintiff, our client, to the portions of her medical chart identifying an adverse incident.
Although the defendant attempted to circumvent our pursuit, investigation, and ability to establish medical negligence in this case, our legal team brazenly moved forward without hesitation. We assembled a compelling claim for significant damages, bolstered by scientific information, patient medical records, expert opinion, and previous case law, leaving no stone unturned or task untackled should the case proceed to trial. Ultimately, we were able to obtain $3.4 million for our client’s financial and personal losses, accounting for the psychological, physical, and monetary toll that she has paid and will continue to pay due to the mistakes of those entrusted with her future.
Our attorneys at Fronzuto Law Group find medical malpractice law to be personally and professionally gratifying because cases like this demand accountability and just compensation. Our firm’s focus on the pursuit of justice for those unduly harmed by medical malpractice continues, as we consider each case successfully won another testament to right overcoming wrong.
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