Wallingford Man Gets $4.2 Million in Medical Malpractice Case

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By Luther Turmelle

July 1 on the Internet and July 2, 2015 in print

A Superior Court jury in New Haven this week awarded a 58-year-old Wallingford man $4.2 million for a serious injury that occurred during a surgical procedure he claimed was the result of a doctor's misdiagnosis.

Gregory Leigh lost the use his left shoulder after Dr. Daniel Schwartz damaged Leigh's spinal accessory nerve in a December 2008 surgery, according to a lawsuit. Schwartz and MidState Medical Group were named as codefendants in the medical malpractice lawsuit filed on behalf of Leigh by the Bridgeport-based law firm of Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder.

The financial award to Leigh, which was made Wednesday, came following a 2½-week trial before a jury of three men and three women, according to his attorneys, Sean McElligott and Emily Rock. Superior Court Judge Robin Wilson presided over the trial.

The damage from the surgery left Leigh with nerve palsy, permanent disfigurement of his left shoulder and an inability to extend that arm or raise it above his head, McElligott said.

Gregory Leigh
Gregory Leigh

"This was traumatic for him because he has worked as a laborer all of his life and that's part of who he is," McElligott said. "He's only able to use his right arm and he has horrible memories of the surgery."

Leigh was employed at the time of the surgery by Perma Treat Corp., a Durham-based company that sells treated lumber and wood products. McElligott said his client still works at the business, but is given special tasks to do that only require using his right arm.

Leigh went in December 2008 to see Schwartz, who was working at MidState Medical Center, Rock said. At the time, Leigh thought he had a swollen lymph node and after examining him, Schwartz scheduled him for surgery to remove it, she said.

But Rock said that a simple test would have told Schwartz that what was really bothering Leigh was a mild Bartonellosis bacterial infection, also known as "cat scratch disease."

"He lives on a farm, where he and his partner take in stray animals," Rock said. "One of the cats scratched him on the neck and that gave the bacteria that caused the infection."

Schwartz is now practicing at Hartford Hospital. Calls to his office late Wednesday and to his Hartford-based attorney, Jonathan Kocienda, were not immediately returned.

Rebecca Stewart, a spokeswoman for Hartford HealthCare, which owns both MidState Medical Center and Hartford Hospital, said in a written statement that the hospitals "are committed to patient safety."

"It is at the heart of everything we do," Stewart said. "We are focused on the important work of improving patient safety and quality within our network and across the country."