$10 million dollars recovered for college student who suffered paralysis after emergency room misdiagnosis.
In 2014, James Lavoie and Ben Lavoie agreed to represent a young college student in an extraordinary medical malpractice case. The college student had been suffering from headaches and general symptoms of sickness throughout the previous summer without doctors being able to determine the source of the problem. Then in October of 2013, the college student became so sick that he and his girlfriend decided he needed to go into a local Emergency Room for treatment. He called his mother before going to the hospital, and sensing the severity of the situation, she drove 70 miles to attend the appointment as well.
At the hospital, the young man complained of the worst headache of his life, difficulty with his vision, dizziness, nausea, unstable balance, difficulty walking for the past several days, and recent weight loss. The Emergency Department doctor who attended to the young man noted his symptoms, observed that he had nystagmus (abnormal eye movement), but noted an otherwise normal neurological examination. She did not examine his ability to walk. The student, his girlfriend, and his mother all complained that they repeatedly requested that the doctor perform a CT scan or MRI of the young man’s brain, but the doctor declined, instead diagnosing a migraine headache and informing the family that since he was set up for an MRI the following day (at the ordering of another physician who had been treating the young man for his headache symptoms) no scans were necessary at that time. The young man was discharged from the Emergency Department.
Tragically, the college student went back to his girlfriend’s apartment, continued to get sicker, and then collapsed. It turns out that he had been suffering from acute hydrocephalus (too much cerebral spinal fluid building up on his brain from undiagnosed meningitis), and the pressure on his brain led to him suffering a herniation of his brainstem. He almost died. However, he underwent emergency brain surgery at a different local hospital, and they saved his life. Nevertheless, the brainstem injury caused permanent neurological injuries that resulted in him being a quadriplegic.
James and Ben Lavoie had the case reviewed by five renowned physicians: two emergency medicine physicians, a neurologist, a neurosurgeon, and a neuro-radiologist. Their consensus was that the emergency room physician that attended to the young man had a duty and obligation under the accepted standards of care for emergency medicine to do a CT scan of a patient that presents with the symptoms and history that the college student did. Furthermore, it was certain that had a CT been done, a simple surgical procedure to relieve the fluid pressure on the brain would have been performed and the young man would have had no permanent injury.
James and Ben sued the hospital and emergency room physician for the failure to properly diagnose and treat the young man. In response, the hospital and doctor’s lawyers claimed that no CT was required by the standard of care, that the doctor suggested but did not order the young man undergo a CT, and that he declined it. This suggestion of a scan and the patient’s refusal of it was not recorded in the medical records, which in fact contradicted that any CT was offered.
The case was vigorously litigated for a year and half and just weeks before trial the case settled for $10 million dollars. The settlement amount was a figure that allowed the young man to obtain all the care, treatment, and assistance he would require for the rest of his life, while also permitting him opportunities for personal, educational, and social growth. To accomplish this outcome for such a young, admirable, and inspirational client has unquestionably been one of the highlights for the careers of both James and Ben, and it was even more satisfying doing it together.
Lindell & Lavoie, LLP
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431 South Seventh Street
Minneapolis, MN 55415-1801
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