Rod Dillman and Jennifer Stevens successfully secured a defense verdict for a trauma surgeon on May 25, 2018 after a five-day trial in Norfolk Circuit Court. The plaintiff alleged negligent performance of repair and revision surgery of orbital blowout fracture, causing permanent double vision and pain. Plaintiff’s counsel asked for $4,000,000.00 in her closing argument.
The patient initially presented to the emergency department at an area hospital on April 28, 2013, after falling face first on brick stairs, with nothing to brace her fall. A CT Scan was ordered in the emergency department, showing a severe orbital blowout fracture. The emergency medicine physician referred the patient to the on-call trauma plastic surgeon for repair.
On May 1, 2013, the on-call trauma plastic surgeon saw the patient in consult. At her first appointment, the patient complained of blurriness, double vision, and numbness in her left cheek. Based on review of the CT Scan and physical examination, the on-call plastic surgeon recommended repair surgery. Due to the patient’s profound and varied co-morbities including, but not limited to, scleroderma, the on-call physician required medical clearance from her primary care physician, and ordered an ophthalmology consult to assess her vision.
On May 8, 2013, the patient presented to their second consult. At that time, she reported that the double vision resolved, but that blurry vision and numbness persisted. The patient was scheduled for surgery on May 14, 2013.
On May 1, 2013, the patient was admitted at the request of her primary care physician due to her need for special steroid protocol prior to surgery.
On May 14, 2013, the on-call plastic surgeon performed repair of the orbital blowout fracture. After the procedure, a forced duction test was performed and came back normal. After surgery, a CT Scan was ordered which revealed that the implant had, in fact, fallen into the sinus. The on-call plastic surgeon disclosed to the patient that the implant had fallen, and would require revision surgery.
On May 17, 2013, revision surgery was performed. Again, a forced duction test was performed and the results were normal. Following the second surgery, the patient complained of profound pain and discomfort and double vision. At the request of the on-call plastic surgeon, the patient was referred to another oculoplastic surgeon for a second opinion.
On July 13, 2013, a third revision and exploratory surgery was performed by a different oculoplastic surgeon. Again, a forced duction test was performed and the results were normal. The patient continued to complain of pain and double vision.
Two years later, the patient was seen at Johns Hopkins University Medical Center by an oculoplastic surgeon and a strabismus surgeon.
On November 15, 2015, a fourth surgery was completed by the oculoplastic surgeon. Again, a forced duction test came back normal, but plaintiff continued to complain of double vision.
On October 20, 2017, a fifth and final surgery was completed by a world-renowned strabismus surgeon at Johns Hopkins. Again, a forced duction test came back normal. The patient continued to complaint of double vision. Subsequently, the patient was fitted with prism glasses which restored nearly 2/3 of her visual field.
The plaintiff-patient alleged that the on-call trauma surgeon negligently failed to adequately repair the orbital floor in the first surgery by making the implant too short, and negligently failed to adequately revise the implant during the second surgery by entrapping the inferior rectus muscle, causing significant pain and double vision.
Plaintiff’s retained expert and treating provider testified that the on-call trauma surgeon pushed the implant into the sinus during the first surgery, making the revision surgery necessary. Plaintiff’s retained expert further testified that the on-call plastic surgeon negligently entrapped the inferior rectus muscle during the revision surgery and that the negligent performance of the revision was the proximate cause of the patient’s pain and double vision.
Defense expert trauma surgeons countered that the patient suffered a severe orbital blowout fracture, and the patient presented as a challenging case due to: (1) her pre-existing medical conditions; (2) both the orbital floor and medial wall were broken; (3) the limited exposure in the surgical area; and (4) the critical structures involved.
After a five-day trial, the jury deliberated for less than two hours and returned a verdict in favor of the Defendant on-call trauma surgeon and his corporation.
Please note that case results depend upon a variety of factors unique to each case, and case results do not guarantee or predict a similar result in any future case.