$940,317: Doctor Severs A Spinal Accessory Nerve During Neck Surgery

CASE DESCRIPTION:  A woman went in for the removal of a cyst in her neck.  During the surgery the doctor severed a spinal accessory nerve.  Despite the woman’s complaints of left arm weakness the doctor waited several weeks to look into the matter.  By the time she was properly diagnosed it was too late to repair the injury.  The woman brought suit for medical malpractice.

RESULT:  $940,317.00 total settlement

Plaintiff Amelia R. had bracheocleft cyst removal surgery on January 25, 2000.  Defendant Guen J., M.D. performed the surgery to remove the bracheocleft cyst and during the surgery severed  Amelia R’s spinal accessory nerve.  In the weeks following the surgery, Amelia R. complained to Dr. Jahng of post surgical left arm weakness.  Defendant Dr. Guen J. simply had Amelia R. return to his office for post surgical visits for several weeks before he referred her to an orthopedic surgeon for an MRI of the neck because he thought she might have been having some kind of cervical spine problems.

Ultimately, Amelia R. was referred to a neurosurgeon up at USC, who indicated that this was, in fact, a spinal accessory nerve injury.  By the time the referral had occurred, it was too late to try to do any kind of nerve repair surgery.   Plaintiff Amelia R. now has extreme pain weakness of the left shoulder and arm, and has been declared disabled by her physician, at least at this point, from doing her job as a Bank of America branch manager.  She is on a great deal of pain medication on a daily basis as well as anti-depressants.  She has lost her job at Bank of America at this point.  She has not worked since the incident.  The big question economically speaking in this case will be whether or not in the future she will ever be able to work at any job ever again.

Plaintiffs contend that Dr. Guen J. did not provide Amelia R. with informed consent  of the potential danger of hitting the nerve at the time of the surgery and the risk that this entails including the major injury that it involves if indeed the nerve is hit.  Second, Plaintiff contends that the doctor is required to identify the spinal accessory nerve, visualize it, and avoid hitting it and that Defendant Dr. Guen J. did not see the nerve, did not look for the nerve, did not visualize the nerve and did not avoid the nerve.

TYPE OF CASE:  Medical Malpractice

INJURIES: Extreme pain and weakness in her left arm.

DATE & LOCATION OF INCIDENT:  On 1/25/01 in Whittier, California.

PLAINTIFF’S AGE:  50 at time of incident.

OCCUPATION:  Bank Branch Manager

Richard A. Cohn
For Plaintiff – Amelia  & Eduardo R.

Bradley Clark
For Defendant – Jenifer C., M.D. & Guen J., M.D.