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Ocean County

This lawsuit grew out of the plaintiff’s allegations of medical malpractice on the part of the defendant retinal surgeon. In particular, the plaintiff argued that the defendant’s delay in surgery for a retinal detachment and tear in the plaintiff’s left eye caused deterioration and additional symptoms that the plaintiff would not have otherwise suffered had the surgery been performed without delay. In addition, the plaintiff alleged that the defendant should have performed a vitrectomy and scleral buccal, rather than just a scleral buccal, and contended that the failure to perform the appropriate procedures in combination with the delay caused the loss of the plaintiff’s left eye. With respect to the right eye, it was alleged that the defendant’s failure to initially examine the right eye, and the subsequent delay in treating the right eye for symptoms of lattice degeneration, resulted in multiple surgeries two years later which were only minimally successful, so that plaintiff is now legally blind in his right eye as a direct result of the delay and lack of treatment.

The male plaintiff was a 44-year-old truck driver in March 3, ________, when his ophthalmologist diagnosed him as having a retinal detachment and a possible retinal tear in his left eye. The ophthalmologist referred plaintiff to the defendant retinal surgeon. The plaintiff visited the defendant the next day and was scheduled for surgery on March 5th in which a scleral buccal would be performed to treat the retinal detachment. While the defendant maintained that there was no operative suite available for surgery on March 4th, the plaintiff maintained through the testimony of a former hospital employee that there was, in fact, an operative suite available and that there were written procedures in place to bump other procedures for an emergency surgery.

According to the plaintiff, the delay caused the retinal detachment to worsen and the tear to expand to encompass the full quadrant of the eye. In addition, prior to the surgery, blood was found in the vitreous and a second retinal tear had developed. As a result, according to the plaintiff’s expert’s opinion, the proper procedure should have been a scleral buccal and a vitrectomy to remove the entire vitreous in the eye and replace it with a fluid or a gas to hold the retina in place and alleviate the tractional forces pulling at the retina to avoid causing further injury to the eye.

After the surgery was performed, the plaintiff continued to suffer a severe vitreous hemorrhage. On March 20, ________, the defendant determined that the plaintiff required a vitrectomy and scheduled this surgery for March 25. However, by then, the plaintiff had developed a total retinal detachment and the second retinal tear had now become a giant tear. Following this surgery, the eyed continued to deteriorate and shrink and one year later, the eye was surgically removed.

With respect to the right eye, the plaintiff alleged that the defendant failed to even examine this eye. The plaintiff further alleged that the defendant did not attempt to treat this eye prophylactically for probable lattice degeneration. Two years later in March, ________, there was a retinal detachment in the right eye which resulted in multiple surgeries that have left the plaintiff legally blind.

Relying upon his expert’s opinion, the plaintiff contended the delay in surgery was the direct cause for the later symptoms which developed in the left eye. The delay allowed the retinal detachment and expansion of the retinal tear and the other progression of symptoms which ultimately led to the loss of the left eye. In addition, according to the plaintiff’s expert, while the defendant performed a scleral buccal to repair the detachment and tear, the appropriate procedure should have been a scleral buccal combined with a vitrectomy. Additionally, the plaintiff contended that the defendant negligently failed to examine the right eye during plaintiff’s first visit. The plaintiff’s expert opined that the defendant should have prophylactically treated the right eye and that her failure to do so resulted in a retinal detachment two years later with multiple surgeries of only modest success so that plaintiff has been left legally blind in his right eye.

The defendant contended that there was no proximate cause between the medical treatment given and the detachment which occurred in the right eye two years later. In this regard, the defendant argued that with most people, there is a natural occurrence of lattice degeneration as they age and that its not significant unless it affects the macula.

The defendant maintained that it was appropriate to simply monitor the eye, rather than to take proactive measures. While the defendant admitted that it was negligent to fail to examine the right eye both initially and in the months after treatment of the left eye, it was argued that the retinal detachment two years later was unrelated to the negligence.

With regards to the left eye, the defendant maintained there was no meaningful delay in performing surgery. Furthermore, the defendant’s position was that retinal detachments often occur and that they don’t have to be treated on an emergency basis, thus the surgery performed two days after the initial visit was not a medically significant delay.

In addition, the defendant argued that it was a matter of medical judgment justified by the circumstances to perform the scleral buccal procedure without a vitrectomy.

The plaintiff, who is totally disabled, receives state disability and now also receives SSD benefits. Economic testimony would have been presented at trial in support of his lost income claim, although there would have been an offset for the collateral sources received to date.

Two days into the trial, after the opening statements were concluded and the first witness was called, the parties agreed to settle this case in the amount of $________. This figure was based upon the trauma of the surgeries and loss of eyesight, the fact that plaintiff has two children ages 11 and 13 and that he would never be able to work again. The plaintiff claimed over $________ in economic loss and loss of household services. This was premised upon the plaintiff’s allegations that at the time of the surgery, he had been a local driver earning $________/year, but he had formerly been a truck driver on national routes earning $________/ year. Sometime prior to the surgery, the plaintiff had determined to work closer to home until his daughter turned age 12 because he was close to his children and wanted to coach their athletic teams and generally be involved in their lives, which he could not do while working on national routes. Thus, the economic losses were calculated based on his earnings as a national route driver.

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