News Brief

Shepperd Scores Defense Victory in Med Mal Case

September 16, 2013

John Shepperd (Partner-Houston) obtained a defense verdict in a medical malpractice case against an orthopedic surgeon who performed hip replacement surgery on the plaintiff. The plaintiff claimed that the defendant failed to take appropriate measures to diagnose him with an infection.

One month after hip replacement surgery, the plaintiff complained to his surgeon of hip pain which arose during physical therapy. The surgeon suspended physical therapy to allow the patient time to heal. When the patient's condition worsened, the surgeon ordered various tests which pointed to many possibilities for his pain, including infection. The defendant operated on his patient again and discovered an occult femur fracture. As a result, the plaintiff's counsel alleged that the surgeon failed to rule out an underlying deep wound in the hip, while the plaintiff's expert criticized the doctor for giving the plaintiff pre-op antibiotics, which could create a false negative on intra-operative cultures.

Fourteen months later, the patient experienced unbearable hip pain that led another surgeon to reopen the wound and discover necrotic tissue in the hip joint, steering this doctor to diagnose methicillin-resistant staph aureus (MRSA) infection. The patient then had his hip prosthesis removed and replaced in a two-stage surgical procedure before undergoing several additional surgeries for infection-related complications.

The trial lasted three days and included a plaintiff’s expert with compromised credibility and testimony from the defendant and the defense expert that infection did not become a likely diagnosis until nearly a year after the hip fracture was repaired, during which time four other physicians did not make the MRSA diagnosis. The jury deliberated for 10 minutes before deciding unanimously for the defendant.

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