By: David Donovan August 3, 2017
North Carolina Lawyers Weekly
A 28-year-old Marine veteran who suffered paralysis from the waist down after emergency room doctors failed to diagnose an infection that was compressing the nerves along his spine has reached a $2.25 million confidential settlement, his attorney reports.
Darren Dawson of Dawson & Albritton in Greenville reports that his client is a veteran of the war in Afghanistan who injured his back when an explosive device detonated under his vehicle while he was traveling in a combat convoy. He was honorably discharged from the Marines, and about 10 months after his return to the U.S. he was in the course of one week admitted to the emergency room of an unidentified hospital three separate times, complaining of severe back pain and urination difficulties.
On the third occasion, the client began to experience neurological deficits and onset of paralysis. He was flown to another hospital and diagnosed with an epidural spinal abscess—a collection of pus and germs between the outer covering of the spinal cord and the bones of the spine that causes swelling in the area which compress the spinal nerves—which required immediate decompression surgery.
“Unfortunately, the neurosurgeon just got to him too late. Part of our argument was that had they discovered the abscess sooner, he could have been operated on sooner, and avoided paralysis at least in some measure,” Dawson said. “The sooner you get to the operating table, the better the outcome most of the time. But with each passing hour, the prospect of a full recovery lessened.”
The client alleged negligence against the first hospital and its ER physicians for failing to diagnose the abscess, arguing that doctors should have ordered an MRI to be taken, and that this would have discovered the abscess. Dawson said that the second hospital did order an MRI taken and was able to quickly diagnose the problem.
The defense contended that a spinal epidural abscess is an extremely rare condition and that the patient did not present with the typical risk factors of an abscess patient until the third visit, Dawson said. The settlement was agreed to June 20, but the identities of the parties and the defense attorneys were withheld pursuant to a confidentiality agreement.