CLEVELAND, July 5, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- A Cuyahoga County jury, in a case brought by the law firm of Spangenberg Shibley & Liber on behalf of Aaron Riedel's family, sent a strong message about the duty of care emergency room doctors must follow and the patient safety this community demands by returning a verdict of $5.6 million for Mr. Riedel and his two minor daughters. Aaron was rendered a paraplegic when an emergency room doctor failed to order an MRI that would have found the growing infection in his thoracic spinal canal (spinal epidural abscess) in time to have the abscess surgically drained before it caused permanent neurological injury. The verdict was intended to cover the costs of Aaron's future healthcare and compensate his daughters for the altered relationship with their father who is now mostly wheelchair bound.
The devastating life-altering injuries were entirely preventable if the emergency room doctor had looked at the medical records and discovered that Aaron had a recent MRSA infection. MRSA infections are known to get into the bloodstream and seed into the spinal epidural space. Infections of the spine are extremely dangerous and E.R. doctors who suspect it as a potential source of back pain must rule out infections with MRI imaging studies.
Aaron was seen at the Lodi Community Hospital E.R. with new onset severe back pain despite no recent back injury. Aaron reported and the doctor documented that he had recently been diagnosed with an abdominal MRSA skin infection (2 weeks prior) that had been treated with the antibiotic Bactrim. The E.R. doctor discharged Aaron with a diagnosis of a muscle strain, prescribed pain killers, and told Aaron to return if his symptoms worsened.
The next night, Aaron returned to the Lodi E.R. with worsening (9/10) back pain that radiated into his flank. Aaron reported to the triage nurse that he had been seen the previous night with back pain, which had become worse. He again reported his recent MRSA diagnosis and Bactrim medication. The E.R. doctor suspected a kidney stone, which was ruled out by CT scan. Aaron was sent home with a diagnosis of back pain and provided with steroid treatment.
The doctor testified that although he was aware that MRSA was in the medical records, he was unaware that this was a recent diagnosis, and did not ask Aaron anything about his MRSA diagnosis. However, the doctor also testified that given Aaron's symptoms, he would have sent Aaron for an MRI of the spine if he had known the MRSA infection was recent. Although the prior evening's records were available to the doctor, he never read them because he was unaware that the hospital maintained those records on-site.
Aaron returned a third night in a row with worsening back pain. During the course of the E.R. admission, he began to experience tingling and weakness in his legs. Aaron was transferred to Akron General Medical Center for an MRI. The MRI revealed a large thoracic spinal epidural abscess compressing the spinal cord. Emergency surgery was performed, but it was too late to salvage the spinal cord and prevent permanent neurological injury.
At trial, the Plaintiffs' experts testified that had Aaron been transferred to Akron on the night of the second E.R. admission, surgery would have been virtually 100% successful in preventing the paralysis.
At trial, Spangenberg lawyers, William Hawal and Stuart Scott, proved that the E.R. doctor failed to look at all of the information available to him, and failed to ask the patient basic questions that would have alerted him to the recent MRSA infection diagnosis. On the witness stand, the doctor conceded that if he had been aware of this information that a spinal epidural abscess would have been high on his differential diagnosis necessitating an MRI of the spine.
After two weeks of testimony and evidence from experts in the field of Emergency Medicine, Infectious Disease, Spinal Surgery, Life Care Planning and Economics, the jury found the emergency room doctor negligent and Lodi Community Hospital legally responsible for its independent contractor physician.
Many of Spangenberg Shibley & Liber LLP's cases come via word of mouth – either from satisfied former clients or from other attorneys who know the firm is skilled at handling complex litigation and trying the most difficult cases.
The Cleveland attorneys of Spangenberg Shibley & Liber LLP have devoted themselves to representing injured persons and aggrieved businesses for more than 65 years. Spangenberg Shibley & Liber was founded in 1946, and has won more than $1 billion in verdicts and settlements on behalf of clients. The firm maintains a "Best Law Firms" rating by U.S. News for Tier 1 Medical Malpractice Law and Personal Injury Litigation. For more information, you can contact the firm online or call (216) 600-0114.
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SOURCE Spangenberg Shibley & Liber LLP