Virginia Orthopedic Malpractice Suit Ends in Mistrial

Posted on Nov 15, 2013

Having surgery is an extremely nerve-racking experience. Not only do you worry whether or not everything will go as planned, but also if the procedure will ultimately stop your suffering.

Regrettably, this worry was valid for 67-year-old Virginia resident Carol Nettles, as her clavicle surgery actually resulted in more pain and suffering than when she started. Miss Nettles sought compensation from her orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Robert Rutkowski, by way of a one million dollar malpractice lawsuit. Unfortunately, after two years of preparation, the lawsuit ended in a mistrial due to a hung jury.

The trial centered on Nettles’s injuries from a surgery meant to heal a fractured collarbone. She claimed that Dr. Rutkowski was supposed to attach screws into her clavicle, but instead attached a metal plate affixed with sutures. This plate caused unnecessary pain and deformity as it protruded from her shoulder. She further stated that the sutures acted like a saw that cut her collarbone.

Nettles’s lawyer furthered the plea for damages with the testimony of Dr. Edward McFarland. He stated that surgery shouldn’t even have been performed due to the difficulty of the fracture, as well as Nettles’s age and bone frailty.

Rutkowski defended the choice to attach the plate by stating that the screws he initially planned on using failed during the surgery. He chose to replace them with a metal plate and sutures in order to give the patient a better chance to heal. Dr. Robert Zura of Duke University testified that this was a valid decision, claiming that Rutkowski used the most modern and successful technique to help heal the fracture. Rutkowski then stated that the subsequent complications most likely resulted from Nettles’s osteoporosis, not because of the procedure.

As a result of the conflicting testimonies, the jury was at a standstill. After 11 hours of deliberation from the jurors, Judge Susan L. Whitlock declared a mistrial due to a hung jury.

The Virginia medical malpractice lawyers at Shevlin Smith extend condolences to Miss Nettles and wish her good luck if she chooses to retry her case.

 

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