I can’t start out the facts of this case without pointing out how amazing our client and his family were and are. Just a great loyal family. They came in and out of the courtroom during the two week trial, including six of his seven siblings. His elderly parents were there for the closing too, along with one of his nieces. I have four small kids. When they are older, I want us to all be as close as that family. They are great people that love each other and they love God. Which means they have 95% of life covered when they wake up in the morning.
Our client was an armed security guard at a federal building. He was walking over a barrier that was lying down in the ground when a co-worker activated the barrier. He was hoisted up into the air, twisting his knee and trapping him in the barrier. He dislocated his knee, tearing almost every ligament and tendon. His knee reduced before he arrived at the emergency room. His ER visit was only about 2 hours long where he had a series of X-rays as the only intervention. While he was there, the PA suspected a knee dislocation, but never told her supervising doctor. He was discharged with a knee sprain diagnosis. Two days later he returned to ER with no pulses in his foot, and ended up with an above the knee amputation.
The physician’s assistant and the ER doctor breached the standard of care by failing to rule out an injury to his popliteal artery. One in three knee dislocations result in an injury to this artery. If you don’t catch the injury within the 6-8 hour window, you have a 90% amputation rate. If they had done a vascular assessment, they would have easily discovered the injury. He could have been re-vascularized and his leg would have survived. The bad guys claimed that since he had normal pulses in his leg throughout the 2 hours he was there and they had no reason to believe that he injured his artery. They also tried to defend the case on the theory that he did not give an adequate history for them to have suspected a knee dislocation. The physician’s assistant said that the knee dislocation was only in her differential diagnosis and that she ruled it out after the X-rays came back normal (even though you cannot rule out a dislocation that reduced simply by looking at the X-rays). There was also a goofy causation argument that the injury to his artery actually occurred after he was discharged. That might work in some cases when the jury is eager to go down an Oliver Stone path. But it was the wrong path with this client.
Our client is an amazing guy. He returned to work as an armed security officer after almost two years of rehab and training to get him back in shape for the job. He is very independent and considers himself “lucky” to have survived this. He refuses to call or consider himself disabled or handicapped. He was a difficult witness to pull pain and suffering details out of because of his refusal to let this injury defeat him (but the day-in-the-life video helped). He will not use handicap parking spaces and he never complains. He was extremely athletic before the injury and was an avid swimmer. He has only been to the pool four times since this incident occurred, since he is afraid of the wet surfaces.
Our verdict was $5.2 million:
- $216,000 past medical bills
- $601,000 for further prosthesis
- $667,000 for further lost wages (he could no longer work his second job)
- $35,000 in lost household services
- $3,700,000 in pain and suffering damages
Laura Zois and Rod Gaston tried the case. Samantha Harbeson did the PowerPoint presentations and just kept the whole trial together as she always does.