May 24, 2016, PNLR E-Newsletter | The American Association For Justice Archive

May 24, 2016, PNLR E-Newsletter

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Failure to timely detect compartment syndrome

photo of leg xray showing broken bone

The plaintiff underwent surgery following a leg injury and soon developed compartment syndrome, which led to an above-the-knee amputation. Suit alleged the hospital failed to implement an adequate surveillance system for detecting and monitoring acute compartment syndrome. The jury awarded $2.85 million. Gray v. Mlsna.

Deshawn Gray, 25, suffered a left tibial fracture in a motorcycle accident. He was transferred to St. Joseph Hospital, where he was admitted by orthopedic surgeon Jacqueline Mlsna. Mlsna ordered a femoral nerve block with a postsurgical catheter and then performed open reduction internal fixation surgery. Within three hours of the procedure, Gray developed severe pain, paresthesia, and paralysis of his left foot and toes. Three hours later, Gray’s attending nurses notified anesthesiologist James Maney, who allegedly advised them to tell Mlsna about Gray’s symptoms. The nurses failed to do so.

Over the next two days, Mlsna’s partner, orthopedist Sean Tracy, noted that Gray had a numb and motionless foot; Tracy allegedly attributed this to a possible surgical nerve injury. The following evening, Mlsna diagnosed Gray as having compartment syndrome. Gray underwent several fasciotomies and debridements; however, he later required an above-the-knee amputation.

Gray, a professional driver, could not return to work for 18 months. His past and future lost earnings are estimated at about $285,000.

Gray sued the hospital, alleging it failed to implement an adequate surveillance system for detecting and monitoring acute compartment syndrome. The plaintiff asserted that the defendant’s nurses failed to adequately assess Gray for acute compartment syndrome or timely report his change of status to the treating orthopedists.

The jury awarded $2.85 million, including $1.35 million in stipulated economic damages and $1.5 million pain and suffering damages subject to the state’s $750,000 cap on noneconomic damages. The jury found the hospital 75 percent liable and Maney, who was a nonparty, 25 percent responsible. The parties later settled for $2.1 million.

Citation: Gray v. Mlsna, No. 13CV008460 (Wis. Cir. Ct. Milwaukee Cnty. Nov. 25, 2015).

Plaintiff counsel: AAJ members James A. Pitts and Gregory A. Pitts, both of Racine, Wis.