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Patient doesn’t get damages for nerve pain, jury finds

A Boone County jury has found that a woman who alleged nerve damage after an endoscopy is not entitled to damages, according to a defense attorney in the case.

“We defended it from a standard-of-care point – that [the nurse] did everything appropriately,” said Chris Logan of Logan, Logan & Watson. “As it relates to causation, we said there is no conclusive evidence to say one way or the other that what the nurse did – which was well within the standard of care – caused any injury.”

Chris Logan assisted lead attorney Scott Logan in defending Mid-America Anesthesia Consultants against a suit brought by patient Melody Haufe.

In 2012, Haufe had an endoscopy in preparation for gallbladder removal, Chris Logan said. She underwent pre-anesthesia evaluation during which it was noted that she was overweight.

“That is a risk factor for anesthesia complications but – in and of itself – it is not predictive,” he said. “Just because someone is morbidly obese, that doesn’t mean they will have an anesthesia complication.”

However, he said that after administration of the anesthetic propofol, Haufe’s airway closed.

“This is something that does happen fairly frequently,” he said. “That’s really the reason [the nurse anesthetist] there in that procedure room, is to manage the airway.”

The nurse attempted to correct the problem with a procedure to lift the chin in an attempt to dislodge the tongue, Chris Logan said. When that failed, she used a technique known as a “jaw thrust” pushing the mandible forward with the fingers at which point the airway reopened.

The procedure was then completed without incident although Haufe sustained a small scratch or minor abrasion on her face from the nurse’s actions. Chris Logan said the airway was only closed very briefly.

“That night, Ms. Haufe awoke from a nap and she was feeling some changes in her right facial area,” he said. “She called in and told them about this and they called the nurse who then followed up with Ms. Haufe and also got the anesthesiologist involved.”

He said she was referred to a neurologist who confirmed certain facial changes and numbness but could not determine a cause.

Chris Logan said Haufe eventually filed suit alleging damage to her seventh cranial nerve on the right side. He said the plaintiff contended the nurse used excessive force with the jaw thrust and should have used a tube or other device to open her airway.

But Logan said that such measures were not necessary and could have even entailed additional risks.

“Intubation is a very invasive procedure and even their expert admitted that it is not even plan B,” he said. “It is plan C. You are not going to intubate someone unless you have to.”

He also argued that the plaintiff’s complaints of numbness decreased over time but increased later.

“That’s not consistent with a nerve injury. Usually, you notice it and then it progressively gets better,” he said.

He said that while the abrasion was used to insinuate the possibility of excessive force, he disputed that as well.

“It wasn’t really in the location that you would imagine it would be for there to be damage done to the seventh cranial nerve,” he said.

Chris Logan said that while some objective medical tests indicated there were facial issues, he argued that there was no evidence they were permanent. He also said the treating neurologist could not determine the root of the problem and there was no linkage established to show causation by the nurse’s actions.

He said most of his defense focused on contending the nurse stayed within the standard of care whether the jaw thrust caused the difficulty or not.

“Our expert even admitted on the stand that it is possible but that doesn’t get you there,” he said.

Logan said the jury voted 11-1 for the defense.

“I think a lot of med-mal cases come down to the health care provider and how they testify,” he said. “I really thought our nurse anesthetist did a really good job of explaining what she did, why she did it, how she did it.”

Logan listed Jamie Boock and Zachary Pancoast of Rossiter & Boock as representing the plaintiff. They did not return a request for comment.

Defense verdict

Medical malpractice

Venue: Boone County Circuit Court

Case Number/Date: 13BA-CV00777/June 10, 2016

Judge: Christine Carpenter

Plaintiff’s Experts: Dr. Brian McAlary, Chicago, (anesthesiology)

Defendant’s Experts: Dr. Jeffery Vender, Evanston, Illinois, (anesthesiology); Dr. William A. Cass, Columbia, (anesthesiology); Dr. Mark Cohen, Columbia, (anesthesiology)

Last Pretrial Demand: $125,000

Caption: Melody Haufe v. Mid-America Anesthesia Consultants, P.C.

Plaintiff’s Attorneys: Jamie Boock and Zachary Pancoast, Rossiter & Boock, St. Louis

Defendant’s Attorneys: Scott Logan and Christopher Logan, Logan, Logan & Watson, Prairie Village, Kansas

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the title of the nurse anesthetist. We regret the error.

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