This past fall, William Hawal and Dennis Lansdowne of Spangenberg Shibley & Liber LLP represented Annie P. of Toledo, Ohio in a medical malpractice case in which the injuries occurred in 2015. The case had been repeatedly postponed due to COVID-19, but justice was finally done when a jury returned a verdict of $2M.
Annie P. emigrated from Thailand to the United States in her late teens. Living in Ohio, she eventually attended business school and earned her MBA from the University of Toledo. She and her husband Tommy own and operate restaurants throughout NW Ohio and Southern Michigan. Annie had been heavily involved in all aspects of the business, including all marketing, prior to her injury.
Annie developed low back discomfort that she variably rated 1 to 3 on a pain scale of 1 to 10. Her doctor prescribed physical therapy. During her therapy she was convinced to try dry needling. One of the physical therapists, who had taken a weekend dry needling course, convinced Annie that this would be helpful treatment. Annie agreed to the needling sessions, during which the physical therapist inserted the needles along Annie's thoracic spine.
What Annie did not know is that acupuncturists receive hundreds of hours of training, whereas dry needling involves a weekend crash course. Hawal and Lansdowne explored this discrepancy in training during the litigation.
Following one treatment session Annie developed escalating pain in her mid-back that she rated a 10 on the pain scale of 1-10. She also described the pain as radiating into her abdomen. Annie and her husband went to the Flower Hospital emergency room, where Annie was initially seen by a nurse and a physician's assistant. As the medical records showed, Annie clearly explained that while she did have prior low grade lower back pain, this mid-back pain was different. It was in a different location, it radiated to other parts of the body and her pain was now severe. She explained that this new pain began shortly after a dry needling treatment. In addition Annie was experiencing bladder dysfunction.
Contrary to what Annie said and what the nurse documented, the physician assistant wrote that this was the same as her chronic low back pain. Annie insisted upon seeing a physician. After a cursory interview the doctor attributed the complaints to the chronic lower back pain and sent Annie home.
When Annie tried to get to the bathroom early the next morning she couldn't stand and couldn't walk. Annie's husband carried her to the car and drove her to the Toledo Hospital ER where an MRI revealed that a spinal hematoma was compressing her spinal cord.
Emergency surgery removed the blood clot, but Annie needed months of intense physical therapy to regain the ability to walk. Annie is now only able to work on a part time basis. She continues to have bowel and bladder issues, as well as a significant burning pain in her abdomen.
The case proceeded to trial against the Flower Hospital emergency room physician after a confidential settlement with the other parties.
In addition to their refusal to accept any responsibility for the delay in diagnosing the spinal hematoma, the defense asserted that Annie should not receive compensation for her loss of earning capacity because she had not received a salary during the preceding five year period.