Partner John Ratkowitz resolved an orthopedic malpractice claim on behalf of a 28-year-old resident of Brick, New Jersey, who suffered nerve damage following orthopedic surgery to his left knee.
The plaintiff underwent knee surgery on September 13, 2005. Following the surgery, his left leg was placed in a cylinder cast that went from his foot to his thigh. On September 14, 2005, he began to notice increased swelling in the lower part of his left leg in the ankle and foot area. As the day went on the swelling continued. He developed first a tingling sensation, then later in the day numbness and pain. Eventually, later in the late afternoon or early evening, as his symptoms increased, and the plaintiff telephoned the operating surgeon’s office. No physicians were available¸ and the answering service advised that they would have an on-call physician return his call. Approximately an hour later a physician telephoned the plaintiff and advised him that he should elevate his foot and apply ice to his leg to reduce the swelling and symptoms.
Elevation and ice did not alleviate the plaintiff’s symptoms and the next morning, September 15, 2005, he and his mother both telephoned the orthopedic practice several times to see what they should do about this. Around 10 o’clock in the morning, a person from the practice telephoned the plaintiff’s mother, advising that she could either bring the plaintiff into the office to be seen that morning or she could wait until Friday which was the next day and bring him in to his regularly scheduled appointment. The plaintiffs were told that if they visited that morning, they wouldn’t be able to see the operating surgeon, because he was at the hospital. They elected to wait until the next day, since the operating surgeon was the only orthopedist the plaintiff had ever seen.
While the plaintiff did not know this, the tingling and pain was peroneal nerve compression due to swelling inside the cast. Between the calls and the first doctor visit, the problem became irreversible.
The plaintiff took the position that injury to the peroneal nerve as a result of swelling inside a cast is a well-known potential complication that is entirely avoidable and that accepted standards of medical care required the defendant to immobilize the plaintiff’s leg in a way that didn’t put that nerve at risk.
Mr. Ratkowitz settled the case shortly after it was assigned to a trial judge. The terms of the settlement are confidential.
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