The most common surgical malpractice claim is operative negligence, which arises when a plaintiff alleges that a surgeon deviated from the standard of care during technical elements of the procedure. Of course, negligence can also occur before or after a case, but rarely do we see 3-tiered malpractice claims in which a patient suffers acts of negligence during the pre-op, operative and post-op phases.
Sadly, multiple acts of negligence do occur. Just ask Matthew Standley, winner of a nearly $12 million verdict and loser of his leg to devastating infectious complications that necessitated amputation.
In April, a Florida jury returned an $11,882,175 plaintiff verdict against Broward County orthopedic surgeon Melvyn Rech, DO. The lawsuit stemmed from complications of an elective total knee arthroplasty (TKA) that Dr. Rech performed on Mr. Standley, who had undergone 14 prior knee surgeries and had experienced osteomyelitis on at least one occasion. Following the surgery performed, Mr. Standley's left leg became so infected that amputation was the only recourse. Mr. Standley's lawsuit claimed that Dr. Rech breached the standard of care at every step along the way:
- Pre-op. Mr. Standley was not a candidate for TKA because of his multiple knee surgeries and history of osteomyelitis.
- Intraop. Dr. Rech failed to provide appropriate perioperative antibiotics.
- Post-op. Dr. Rech failed to properly manage the infection once it occurred.
Additionally, Dr. Rech's records didn't include a complete history of Mr. Standley’s previous surgeries or osteomyelitis despite a report of such by another doctor who performed pre-op medical clearance and no indication that a bone scan, MRI or CT was performed before surgery. The surgery, done in 2 stages over 3 months, included arthroscopy, meniscectomy, chondroplasty and removal of hardware.