The Turkewitz Law Firm, 228 East 45th Street, New York, NY 10017 Phone: (212) 983-5900
As Published In
Medical Malpractice — Demerol Injection After Childbirth — Damage To Sciatic Nerve — Surveillance Film — Remittitur
Xxxxxxxxx De Las Nueces v. Long Island College Hospital and [BQ], R.N.
XXXXX/79; 2-week trial
Date of Verdict: 8/13/91
Judge: Leonard Scholnick
Venue: Kings County Supreme Court
Verdict: $610,000, reduced to $450,000 as excessive (5/1). Breakdown: $300,000 for past pain and suffering (reduced to $220,000); $ 300,000 for future pain and suffering (reduced to $220,000); $10,000 for past medical expenses (unchanged). Jury: 3 male, 3 female.
Plaintiff Attorney: Eric M. Turkewitz for Raymond B. Schwartzberg & Associates, Manhattan
Defendant Attorney: Timothy J. McGinn of Bower & Gardner, Manhattan
Plaintiff was a 37-year-old sewing machine operator at the time of the alleged malpractice on 6/1/77. She was under Defendant's care for the delivery of her child. Following the birth, Plaintiff complained that she was experiencing very severe pain in her abdomen and hip. A nurse administered an injection of Demerol. Plaintiff claimed that the nurse damaged the sciatic nerve when she gave the shot. Plaintiff claimed that the nurse placed the injection too close to the midline of the lower torso, as opposed to placing it in the upper outer quadrant of the left buttock. Plaintiff was hospitalized for 5 weeks as a result. She claimed that she was unable to walk for 3 weeks. Her medical records indicated that she complained of constant pain during the 5 weeks. Plaintiff's expert testified that Plaintiff had the signature symptoms of sciatic injury, with pain radiating down from the posterior of the thigh throughout the leg. He further testified that the injection was a simple one which, if performed correctly, would not damage the sciatic nerve. He claimed that the pain is permanent. Defendant's neurologist, Dr. Diddle, who never examined Plaintiff but based his testimony on her medical records, contended that Plaintiff was actually suffering from natural ligamentic changes in the spine. Defendant's other neurologist, Dr. Goodgold, testified that Plaintiff showed only subjective signs of injury. He also contended that if Plaintiff suffered sciatic nerve damage, she would not have bilateral leg pain, as she claimed, but would only have pain on the side where the nerve was damaged.
Plaintiff introduced into evidence three surveillance films shot by Defendant which showed Plaintiff walking on three separate occasions, twice with the assistance of a cane and once without a cane. Defendant argued that Plaintiff had claimed that she always needed a cane. Plaintiff contended that she had good days and bad days, and that on bad days she needed to use the cane. Defendant did not present evidence of how long Plaintiff was under surveillance or who took the film. Plaintiff, who had four children, claimed that she had some difficulty caring for them. She testified that her neighbors helped her with many household chores, but that she requires help bathing and dressing herself. She never returned to work. Demonstrative evidence: surveillance films. No offer: demand: $400,000; amount asked of jury: $ 710,000. Jury deliberation: 3 hours. Plaintiff Expert: Dr. Sidney M. Cohen, neuropsychiatrist, Manhattan. Defendant Experts: Dr. David Biddle, neurologist, Lake Success; Dr. Albert Goodgold, neurologist, Manhattan.
In a 3-page post-trial decision dated 10/23/91, Judge Scholnick noted that the verdict was "excessive to that degree so as to shock the conscience of this court" and reduced Plaintiff's award as follows: $220,000 for past pain and suffering and $220,000 for future pain and suffering. He did not reduce the award for past medical expenses.
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