Improper Spinal Manipulation Verdict

Metro Verdicts Monthly and the Maryland Daily Record report on a $4,947,837 verdict in Montgomery County for a young woman claiming medical malpractice caused her nerve and spinal injuries. The jury awarded $2.5 million for lost wages, $276,000 for medical expenses, $675,000 for loss of consortium, and $2.1 for non-economic damages (which will be reduced to the malpractice cap).

The claim of medical negligence was atypical, particularly for a successful case: the lawsuit claimed negligent manipulation, high-velocity neck-twist caused the injuries. The issue in the case boiled down to whether the doctor, a D.O., was negligent in his manipulation of her neck and whether there was informed consent of the patient. The manipulation apparently caused an internal disc disruption at C5 and damage to the dorsal scapular nerve of her brachial plexus.

The verdict was what it was because the Plaintiff was a young woman with significant future lost wages because she was unable to return to work as a physical therapist. It also sounds like she was an appealing plaintiff: she was a triathlete that had been on the swimming and cycling teams at Michigan State University.

One of my favorite parts of the Metro Verdict Monthly reports is the editor’s notes on who said what about the verdict. In this case, the plaintiff’s medical malpractice attorney, Alan Belsky, told MVM that six of the seven medical expert witnesses who testified on behalf of the plaintiff were her treating doctors. It is hard for malpractice lawyers to get subsequent treating doctors to testify in malpractice cases even when the doctors believe the negligence is clear. Having treating doctors up against the defendants’ usual suspects certainly helps in the battle of the experts. If we are not sure as to whether we should take a malpractice case, a big tipping point is whether the subsequent treating doctor is willing to stand up and opine as to whether the defendant doctor committed malpractice.

This malpractice verdict actually came out in June but Metro Verdicts has a lag time of a few months in reporting on verdicts.