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Cleveland OH 44122
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Delay in Performing STAT MRI Results in Permanent Paraplegia

The Medical Negligence Case Facts

While he was getting clothes out of his closet one morning, Gabe (60 years old) fell backwards and hit the ground. He was in pain, but he was able to get up on his own and drive his 88-year-old mother to her volunteer job at the local elementary school. He came back a few hours later to pick her up, but when they got home, Gabe could not get out of the car because he was in too much pain. A neighbor called 9-1-1, and Gabe was taken to the hospital, where he was evaluated by an emergency medicine doctor.

The emergency medicine doctor was concerned Gabe might have injured his spinal cord, which could be a medical emergency. So, he ordered an MRI (a radiology study) STAT (meaning the doctor wanted it done right away). Before the MRI was completed, the emergency medicine doctor turned over Gabe’s care to a neurosurgeon who specializes in spinal cord injuries.

Unfortunately, there was a delay in getting the MRI done. What should have taken 30 minutes (at most) ended up taking 30 hours. Over the course of those 30 hours, Gabe lost all feeling and strength in his legs and all control of his bowel and bladder.

The MRI eventually was done, and it showed that one of Gabe’s bones in his spine was broken and was pressing on his spinal cord. This explains why Gabe had no feeling or strength in his legs and no control over his bowel and bladder. The neurosurgeon operated on Gabe to take the pressure off his spinal cord, but it was too late. Gabe’s spinal cord already had become permanently injured. As a result, Gabe no longer was able to walk or control his bowel or bladder. In addition, he could not transfer himself from his bed to his wheelchair, get himself dressed, or take care of his basic daily needs on his own.

Building our Medical Error Case

As in any medical negligence case, it is critical to assemble a strong team of medical experts and to provide those experts with all the evidence they need to evaluate the case properly. Here, The Eisen Law Firm consulted with top-notch experts in emergency medicine, neurosurgery, and nursing care. The issues were: (a) whether the hospital’s failure to get a STAT MRI done and treat Gabe’s spinal cord injury was a breach of the standard of care; (b) whether the delay in treatment was a proximate cause of Gabe’s injuries; and (c) the full extent of the injuries and damages suffered by Gabe.

The Eisen Law Firm filed suit and took the depositions (sworn testimony) of the key players in the case, including the defendant neurosurgeon. The neurosurgeon claimed that he had nothing to do with the delay in getting the STAT MRI done. The nursing staff couldn’t explain the significant delay, so they tried blaming Gabe. (Blaming the victim is a common defense strategy in medical negligence cases.) First, the defense team claimed Gabe wouldn’t sit still for the MRI, so they could not get it done. But, as The Eisen Law Firm pointed out, there are many ways to relax an anxious patient, including even sedation, and the nursing staff didn’t try any of them. Then, the defense team said Gabe was too big for the MRI machine, but The Eisen Law Firm located the owner’s manual for the specific MRI machine used and was able to show that Gabe fit well within the size parameters. At the end of the day, The Eisen Law Firm – and its team of experts – were able to prove that there simply was no excuse for waiting 30 hours to get a STAT MRI done.

The defense fought hard on behalf of the doctor and nursing staff, taking the position that even if the MRI had been done in a timely manner, there’s no guarantee that emergency surgery would have fixed Gabe’s spinal cord, or that he would make a full recovery. Finally, the defense contended that Gabe caused his own injury (by falling down), and that he had a very good outcome under the circumstances.

The case was contentious and appeared headed for trial. The Eisen Law Firm began its meticulous trial preparations, which included an in-depth analysis of all of Gabe’s medical records (thousands of pages) and more than 20 peer-reviewed medical journal articles. It also included exhaustive research into the defendant doctor’s professional life, as well as information about the hospital and its ability to get STAT MRIs done quickly.

Our Medical Malpractice Case: Final Pretrial and Settlement

With the trial of the case only a few weeks away, the parties agreed to try to negotiate a settlement. Ultimately, the defense team offered a settlement that represented full and fair compensation, and Gabe accepted the offer.