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Tenney v. Shapiro – $8M Verdict for Woman Paralyzed Following ER Visit

A relatively healthy single mother of two young children was left permanently paralyzed following a series of emergency room treatments by doctors who failed to diagnose the source of pain in her chest, which ultimately led to her paralysis.
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As a result, the plaintiff in Tenney v. Shapiro was awarded $8 million by a Broward Circuit Court jury. Fort Lauderdale medical malpractice attorneys understand the award would have been higher, except comparative negligence of a doctor who enjoyed sovereign immunity slashed the award by $11.25 million.

Attorneys for the defendant doctors in the case have indicated they intend to appeal the verdict.

According to media reports, the 36-year-old woman first sought treatment at Memorial Regional Hospital in 2007 for an abscess that had formed on the upper right portion of her back. Doctors at that time drained the wound and packed it. However, they did not take any culture of the wound, though one doctor did write a prescription for an antibiotic.

Two days later, the woman returned to the hospital, where another doctor repacked the wound. Again, no culture was taken. The next day, she sought treatment from her primary care doctor. The physician there noted heavy drainage in the wound, and she insisted her patient go to the emergency room, have the wound repacked and then be scheduled for surgery within a week.

She did as she was instructed. The wound was again treated, and she was again sent home.

A week later, she visited a surgeon, who instructed her to come back in two weeks. However, prior to the conclusion of those two weeks, the patient began to experience extreme pain her chest that she felt pulsing down her entire right side. On Christmas Eve, she was back in the emergency room. A chest X-ray was normal, as was an EKG. However, neither the doctors nor other staffers engaged in any discussion about the wound on her back. Instead, they once again sent her home.

Two days later, at 3:30 a.m., she returned to the emergency room, once again complaining of chest pain. After a doctor found no blood clotting in her lungs, he prescribed a pain killer and sent her home.

She returned several hours later, complaining the pain was too much to bear. Three hours later, she was taken into surgery, and admitted overnight. Following surgery, as the night wore one, she complained of numbness in her feet, then in her legs. Within nine hours, she had lost the ability to move her legs at all. Tests would later show she was paralyzed from the waist down, and had no bowel or bladder control.

She would later file lawsuit, alleging doctors were negligent in failing to admit her following her complaints of severe chest pain; and that a proper examination and workup would have led to discovery of the infection in her back wound, which had made its way to her spinal cord.

Expert witnesses testified on her behalf, indicating that the defendant doctors breached acceptable standards of care by failing to determine the cause of her chest pain before releasing her from care. Had the diagnosis not been delayed, the witnesses testified, the patient’s mobility could almost certainly have been saved.

One disappointing element in this outcome was the fact that one of the primary doctors involved in her care was a staff doctor, and successfully sought shelter from legal action via sovereign immunity. His percentage of negligence, however, was still factored into the overall award at 58 percent. The plaintiff’s compensation was lessened by that amount.

Delay in diagnosis is one of the most common catalysts for medical malpractice action. If you have suffered as a result of diagnostic delay in Florida, contact us today.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:
Tenney v. Shapiro, filed Aug. 20, 2010, Broward Circuit Court

Fort Lauderdale Attorneys Win $8 Million For Woman Paralyzed After ER Visit , June 4, 2014, By Adolfo Pesquera, Daily Business Review

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