$2.9 million verdict against neurosurgeon and orthopedic surgeon

July 1, 2000

Chronic neck pain caused this 54 year old man to seek treatment from an orthopedic surgeon, who in turn called in a neurosurgeon to assist in performing surgery and then following the patient. When the patient started experiencing increased pain, the neurosurgeon ordered an MRI which revealed significant narrowing of the spinal canal in the neck. The neurosurgeon felt no action was required because the patient did not have any neurological symptoms. Contrary to his own office policy, he did not send the orthopedic surgeon the results of the MRI. Several weeks later the patient saw the orthopedic surgeon who noted that there was now numbness in both hands. He did not share that information with the neurosurgeon, and did not recommend any treatment. A few days later the patient collapsed while walking to answer a telephone, and was quadriplegic. His narrowed spine had pinched off the spinal cord in the neck.

At trial, both doctors admitted that the patient’s condition required treatment, but they each blamed the other for not communicating what they had learned about the changes in the patient’s condition. The jury found them both responsible and awarded $2,900,000.