Medical Malpractice Case Report: $1,050,000 for negligence in the performance of minimally invasive spine surgery leads to permanent spine injury.

Firm partner Peter A. Schmit reached a medical malpractice settlement of $1,050,000  for a 52-year-old chemical engineer who suffered permanent spine injury after the negligent performance of minimally invasive spine surgery. Read the following Minnesota Association for Justice Minnesota Case Report:

Selected Results*

(Excerpts taken with permission from Minnesota Association for Justice (MAJ) “Minnesota Case Reports”)

BL was a 52-year old chemical engineer from Fargo, North Dakota who developed shoulder pain radiating to his arm.  After conservative care failed, BL was referred to MeritCare Neurosurgery and diagnostic scans were performed.  The diagnostic scans revealed the need for a foraminotomy in the cervical region to release pressure on an impinged nerve.  A minimally invasive technique utilizing the METrX system was recommended.  This technique which is relatively new involves a very small incision being made followed by the placement of a sharp surgical instrument called a Steinman pin that is to be placed under fluoroscopic guidance down to the level of bone involvement.  Major advantages include a much smaller incision, no surgical splitting of muscles, and a quicker recovery time.

During the procedure, BL’s spinal cord was punctured by the Steinman pin.  Following surgery, diagnostic tests revealed an injury to the spinal cord leading to a permanent spinal cord injury. Plaintiff’s expert contended that it was a departure from accepted standards of practice to puncture the spinal cord with the Steinman pin. Thankfully, BL was able to return to his work as a chemical engineer but the injury has impacted his activities of daily living. 

Specifically, BL has an impaired gait such that he no longer can fully perform all sporting activities he once did such as running the bases while coaching his son’s baseball team, downhill skiing and walking various golf courses.  BL has been diagnosed with a partial cord injury — Brown-Sequard’s syndrome — and a centrally mediated pain syndrome.  That means BL’s pain flows outward from his injured spinal cord for which he takes Neurontin.  No wage loss was alleged due to BL’s ability to return to work and other than Neurontin, there was no future medical expenses.

Jury questionnaires were utilized and after deliberating several hours the jury returned a verdict totaling $1,050,000 in this no-offer case.


Case Name:

B.L. v. Hospital and Clinic

Date: July, 2007

Peter A. Schmit