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Lehigh County, PA

The plaintiff alleged that the defendant otorhinolaryngologist (ENT surgeon) negligently performed endoscopic surgery to remove polyps from his sinus cavity. The plaintiff claimed that the defendant allowed the surgical instrument to enter the plaintiff’s eye socket and damage an eye muscle. The defendant’s ear, nose and throat practice group was also named as a defendant on a vicarious liability theory. The defendants denied that the surgical instrument entered the plaintiff’s eye socket. The defense contended that the suction of the cutting instrument caused an unavoidable break in the thin bone which separates the orbit from the sinus; thus allowing the orbital fat and muscle of the plaintiff’s eye to enter the sinus cavity during the surgery.

The plaintiff had a longstanding history of sinus problems, including sinus polyps for which he had undergone prior surgery. The defendant ENT surgeon performed out-patient surgery to remove additional polyps on July 29, ________. The plaintiff’s experts testified that the defendant negligently broke through the orbital plate, entered the surgical instrument into the plaintiff’s eye socket and cut the medial rectus muscle. The injury was discovered in the post-operative period.

The plaintiff contended that he had no eye complaints before surgery. Post-operatively he was unable to move his eyes together as they normally move, resulting in double vision. Testimony indicated that the plaintiff could wear a patch or a new type of contact lens or glasses that serve to block out the vision from the left eye. The plaintiff claimed that he could not return to his prior employment as a school bus driver and could no longer engage in his favored activity of archery. The plaintiff made no claim for economic damages.

The defendant’s experts testified that the defendant performed the surgery within the standard of care. Defense experts testified that the orbital plate which separates the eye socket from the sinus cavity (the lamina papyracea) is a very thin membrane. Due to the plaintiff’s longstanding sinus infections and polyps, the defense argued that his lamina papyracea was even more thinned out than normal. The suction power and cutting of the instruments used in the surgery, caused the membrane to give way, and the orbital fat and muscle to move the few millimeters into the surgical field, according to the defendant’s claims.

The defendant maintained that the muscle injury suffered by the plaintiff is a known risk of the procedure which occurred in the absence of negligence and of which the plaintiff was fully informed. The defense also argued that the plaintiff was more susceptible to this type of injury due to his medical history, and the fact that he had prior sinus surgery.The jury found that the defendant doctor was negligent and awarded $________ in damages. The awarded included $________ to the plaintiff and $________ to his wife for her loss of consortium claim. Post-trial motions are currently pending.

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