Olszewski and Markley obtain a defense verdict in Fairfax County.
On August 15, 2012, plaintiff, a 23-year-old female, sustained a deep slice to her left thumb while working as a bartender. After initial care at the emergency department, the plaintiff underwent primary flexor tendon and nerve repair by the defendant hand surgeon on August 17, 2012. Four months later, after plaintiff lost range of motion in her thumb interphalangeal joint, the defendant hand surgeon performed a tenolysis on December 12, 2012. Two days after that, the plaintiff’s flexor tendon ruptured, necessitating a third surgery by the defendant on December 21, 2012. The defendant performed a tendon graft using the flexor pollicis longus tendon, running the graft from the distal phalanx and terminating it in the palm. Six weeks following the tendon graft, the plaintiff presented to another hand surgeon for a second opinion after developing contractures. She ultimately underwent a fusion of the interphalangeal joint in her left thumb, resulting in permanent flexion of that joint in an effort to preserve function.
Plaintiff filed suit in Fairfax County Circuit Court alleging the defendant hand surgeon and his practice breached the standard of care by negligently terminating the tendon graft in the palm during her December 21, 2012 surgery. Plaintiff alleged that the defendant hand surgeon should have instead terminated the tendon graft in her wrist to avoid scarring, contractures, and the thumb in palm deformity that ultimately necessitated the later fusion procedure. Defendants denied the allegations and the case was tried starting on April 3, 2017.
Plaintiff’s liability expert was Waldo Floyd, III, M.D., an orthopaedic hand surgeon from Georgia. Dr. Floyd testified that the defendant breached the standard of care by incorrectly terminating the tendon graft in plaintiff’s palm, in the flexor sheath. Dr. Floyd also testified for the plaintiff on causation, asserting that terminating the tendon graft in the palm caused plaintiff’s flexion contractures. Plaintiff also called Michael Kessler, M.D., an orthopaedic hand surgeon at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. Dr. Kessler testified to the interphalangeal joint fusion that he performed to address plaintiff’s flexion contractures.
Defense liability expert Gregory Degnan, M.D., orthopaedic hand surgeon from Charlottesville, VA, testified that the defendant hand surgeon met the standard of care by terminating the flexor tendon graft outside the fibro-osseous canal of the thumb. Dr. Degnan concluded that the defendant hand surgeon’s selection of a tendon graft length that ended in the palm was reasonable because it terminated outside of the flexor sheath formed by the pulleys of the thumb. Dr. Degnan also testified for the defense on causation, contending that although there was no doubt that plaintiff suffered flexion contractures and scarring after the tendon graft surgery, those conditions were not caused by the surgery itself, but rather by the plaintiff’s failure to fully comply with hand therapy.
After a three-day trial and deliberations for an hour and fifteen minutes, the jury returned a defense verdict.