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June 2018: Of Counsel Christopher Terzian, Secures a Defense Verdict in Supreme Court, Westchester County, before Judge William Giacomo

June 5, 2018

Plaintiff, a then 52-year-old woman with spondylolisthesis at L4 - L5, claimed that a pedicle screw was negligently placed during stabilization surgery performed by our client surgeon. Our client surgeon operated to stabilize the area, remove disc and bone, to relieve pressure on the L4 and L5 nerve roots bilaterally (he performed a two-level decompressive laminectomy with spinal fusion from L4 to S1). One of the pedicle screws was misplaced. Plaintiff claimed this injured the right L5 nerve root, and resulted in three subsequent surgeries. In actuality, the misplaced right L5 pedicle screw was not irritating or impinging the right L5 nerve root, and her complaints were related to continued nerve compression bilaterally. Plaintiff's expert admitted at trial that pedicle screw misplacement is a known and accepted risk of the surgery, particularly when all safeguards to ensure proper pedicle screw placement were under-taken, as in this case. In addition to a neurosurgeon, a neurophysiology expert testified for the defense, that based on the intraoper-ative neurophysiologic monitoring, there was no indication that the screw was misplaced or that it was touching the L5 nerve root. This was persuasive proof to the jury that there was no injury from the screw misplacement. Further, our client testified that when he learned of the misplaced pedicle screw from a postoperative CT scan, he had the choice of either leaving the screw alone or replacing it with another screw. Based on this testimony, the judge gave an “error in judgment” charge. The jury returned a defense verdict.

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