Senior Trial Partner Sean F.X. Dugan and Partner Laurie A. Annunziato recently received a defense verdict in the Supreme Court, Queens County. The case involved a 28-year-old working woman who limped into the office of an orthopedic surgeon, complaining that, following recent back trauma, she experienced back pain radiating down her left leg. On examination, the only positive finding was weakness of dorsiflexion of the great toe on her left foot. The surgeon claimed he urged his patient to obtain an MRI study of her lower spine to rule out a herniated disc in the lumbosacral area; the patient denied any such order was given. Within four weeks, the patient developed cauda equina syndrome, a permanent, disabling, very painful condition.
At trial, plaintiff’s counsel claimed the surgeon missed the subtle findings of cauda equina – the radicular pain, urinary retention, or sensory loss in her perianal region.
The defense successfully established that the diagnosis is based on gross findings of the three symptoms together, and plaintiff had only the pain in the back, radiating down her leg, which is consistent with a herniated lumbosacral disc.