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Errors in Gynecological Surgery

CATEGORIES: Surgical Errors CASE LOCATION: Allegheny Co., PA. CLASSIFICATION: Substantial Recoveries

The Cleland Case

In this case, our firm represented Julie Cleland, a 47-year old woman who was admitted by her gynecologist to a local hospital for a total abdominal hysterectomy, a bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy, and a bladder suspension surgery. Post-operatively, Ms. Cleland experienced numbness and tingling in her right leg and was subsequently diagnosed with neuropathy affecting the right lateral femoral cutaneous nerve. Ms. Cleland also experienced urinary incontinence after the surgery.

When Ms. Cleland obtained copies of her medical records, she learned that her leg had fallen off of the operating table during the surgery. Suit was filed against the OB/Gyn and the hospital, alleging that it was the Defendants’ responsibility to insure that her legs were strapped into the stirrups during the surgery and that doing so would have prevented her leg from falling off of the stirrup and prevented her nerve injury.

After the lawsuit was filed, in response to discovery requests, the Defendants produced three “incident reports” that were filled out by the nursing staff at the hospital.

Two reports discussed a dispute between the surgeon and the nurses as to which leg fell off of the table, the left or the right. The surgeon claimed that her right leg had fallen off of the table and a nurse claimed that it was her left leg.

A third incident report revealed that the surgeon had difficulty removing a Foley catheter from Ms. Cleland’s bladder after the bladder suspension surgery. Apparently, the surgeon negligently sutured the catheter to Ms. Cleland’s bladder during the surgery. Interestingly enough, the incident report describing this occurrence was never made part of Ms. Cleland’s medical record and the first knowledge that Ms. Cleland had of this occurrence was when it was provided through discovery months after the lawsuit was filed.

After discovering this new information, we filed an amended complaint against the Defendant OB/Gyn claiming that Ms. Cleland’s post-operative urinary incontinence was the direct result of the obstetrician yanking the catheter from her bladder instead of surgically removing it, as the standard of care provides. By yanking on the catheter and sutures, the obstetrician negligently caused Ms. Cleland’s internal injuries, severe urinary incontinence, her not being able to fully empty her bladder, and forcing her to at times catheterize herself.

Remarkably, the defendants never made one offer to settle this case out of court.

At trial, the obstetrician defended this case by arguing that his action, yanking on the catheter to remove it while it was sutured to Ms. Cleland’s bladder, was appropriate. The defense also attempted to blame Ms. Cleland for faking her leg injuries and incontinence, despite these injuries being confirmed by Ms. Cleland’s treating neurologist and urologist.

The jury returned a verdict in favor of Ms. Cleland and against the OB/Gyn and hospital in the amount of $460,000.00, 75% attributable to the obstetrician and 25% attributable to the hospital.