Patricia Jones entered Good Samaritan Hospital in Suffern, New York for minimally invasive spine surgery, but she left with a spinal cord injury that left her a quadriplegic. Ten years later a New York jury awarded her $55.9 million in compensation.
Prior to suffering the spinal cord injury, Mrs. Jones had sought help with her pain from Drs. George Alexander Jones and Dr. Daniel Spitzer after experiencing pain and tingling in her arms, hands, and neck. The pair scheduled her for a procedure called a laminectomy that involves removing the back part of the vertebrae and widening the spinal canal to allow greater room for the spinal cord and its nerves. There are roughly half a million laminectomies performed in the United States each year, but this time a piece of fractured bone became embedded in the protective covering of Mrs. Jones’ spine, causing the damage to the cord that paralyzed her. Yet despite monitoring revealing the injury, the physicians continued with the surgery and failed to report it in their own records. One day later she began to have significant symptoms including a drop in blood pressure and paralysis, yet the physicians did not order a CAT scan until three hours later.
Disagreement Between Expert Witnesses About Cause of Spinal Cord Injury
A radiological group from outside of the hospital reviewed Mrs. Jones’ CAT scan and said that her injury was the result of an epidural hematoma that had been pressing on her spinal cord but the neurosurgeons who worked with her spine physicians argued that no hematoma existed. Instead, they blamed her symptoms on a stroke within her spinal cord. According to Mrs. Jones’ expert witnesses, had the hematoma been identified at the time it could have been treated and her paralysis could have been reversed. Instead, she has been in a wheelchair for ten years, with nobody involved admitting to what had happened.
The New York jury award consisted of $20 million for pain and suffering and an additional amount for medical and nursing care, therapy, medications, equipment, modifications to her home, other costs, and lost earnings. Her husband was given an additional $10 million for loss of services.