Trial attorney Susan A. Eberle won a favorable medical malpractice defense verdict on behalf of an emergency medicine physician and physician’s assistant. The case was tried in New York State Supreme Court located in Niagara Falls, New York. The plaintiff, a 21-year-old male, presented to the emergency department with a history of pain in his left wrist after falling onto his outstretched hand.
The physician assistant reviewed the chart, took a history, and performed a focused physical examination on the wrist, including palpation of the anatomical snuffbox. He ordered x-rays which were interpreted as negative. The impression was wrist sprain and the plaintiff was discharged with the wrist wrapped in an Ace bandage and instructions to take Motrin as needed and to follow-up with his primary medical doctor within five to six days. Six weeks later, the plaintiff went to his primary doctor who ultimately referred him to an orthopedic surgeon almost five months later where x-rays revealed a scaphoid fracture with non-union. Subsequently, the plaintiff underwent two surgeries with resulting permanent restrictions of motion and pain in his left wrist.
Both the plaintiff, who is a physical therapist, and his expert emergency medicine physician testified that the physician assistant should have ordered repeat x-rays within ten days, placed the wrist in a hard splint, and referred the plaintiff to an orthopedic surgeon. They further opined that the defendant emergency medicine physician negligently supervised the physician assistant and should have contacted the plaintiff with the appropriate discharge instructions. The defendant physician and physician assistant, as well as their emergency medicine expert, testified that the physician assistant’s examination, treatment, and discharge instructions fully met the standard of care, as did the physician in his role as supervising physician in the emergency department setting. Further, the defendants and their expert testified that plaintiff did not follow the medical instructions he was given upon discharge and caused his own injuries.
The jury returned a verdict of no negligence regarding both the defendant emergency medicine physician and physician’s assistant.