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Woman settles with surgeon over facial nerve injury

A case over a surgery that allegedly severed a woman’s facial nerves resulted in a $1.7 million settlement, according to the plaintiff’s attorney.

“It is incumbent upon the surgeon doing that procedure to use some kind of technique to monitor whether you are putting the facial nerve in jeopardy,” said Victor A. Bergman of Shamberg, Johnson and Bergman, which represented the plaintiff.

According to the petition filed by Bergman’s client, Lorretta “Jeanie” Ferguson, the case arose over a 2014 tympanoplasty/ossicular reconstruction procedure performed by Dr. Benesto Tumanut and SLN Medical Specialists LLC.

The operation, designed to improve hearing, was needed to replace a prosthesis in the plaintiff’s inner ear that had been implanted years earlier but deteriorated, Bergman said. The doctor cut three-quarters of the facial nerve that ran through the area, though this wasn’t immediately clear just after the procedure, he said.

“When she wakes up from the surgery, she has facial drooping, problems speaking,” Bergman said. “He is called and he discounts that as the lingering effects of the anesthesia.”

Bergman said the problems continued and, while the difficulties aren’t disabling, his client has permanent issues with facial drooping, speech, eating and peripheral vision.

The plaintiff’s medical bills were about $80,000 billed and about $20,000 paid, he said.

“I guess the other development we had happen that really clinched it was that the subsequent treating surgeon was very clear that her injury had occurred during the surgery,” he said. “It was a surgical injury and that’s why she had these disabilities.”

The defendants might have contended that the difficulty was a known complication if the matter had gone to trial, he said. However, he said a monitor exists to help prevent the problem but it was not used in this case.

“It is a known complication but it is so well-known that you have got to guard against it,” he said.

Bergman said he felt he would have done well in a courtroom, given the evidence.

“It was a very good case,” he said. “The difficult part was evaluating and drawing a hard line about her damages.”

Brandon Henry, who assisted Thomas W. Wagstaff of Wagstaff & Cartmell in representing the defendant, declined to comment.

$1.7M settlement

Medical malpractice

Venue: Platte County Circuit Court

Case Number/Date: 14AE-CV01225/July 14, 2015

Caption: Lorretta “Jeanie” Ferguson; John Ferguson v. Benesto Tumanut MD and SLN Medical Specialists LLC

Plaintiff’s Attorneys: Victor A. Bergman and Daniel Singer, Shamberg, Johnson & Bergman, Kansas City

Defendant’s Attorneys: Thomas W. Wagstaff and Brandon Henry, Wagstaff & Cartmell, Kansas City

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