A couple in Cumberland County, North Carolina may proceed with a medical malpractice lawsuit against Village Surgical Associates and practicing physician Michael S. Bryant, based in Fayetteville, North Carolina, according to a ruling by the North Carolina Supreme Court.
The 4-2 decision stated that Robert E. King, and his wife, Jo Ann O’Neal, are not required to go into private arbitration with the doctor and his surgical practice, for the permanent injuries that King suffered when Bryant performed surgery on him in 2009. They may seek damages in a medical malpractice suit, if they choose to do so.
Bryant and his practice were trying to enforce an arbitration agreement, which King had signed before the surgery.
The ruling, written by North Carolina Supreme Court Associate Justice Sam Ervin IV, stated that Bryant was attempting to repair a hernia that King suffered during surgery. In the process of the surgery, King’s distal abdominal aorta – a major blood vessel – was damaged. King started to bleed into his abdomen.
The injury to the aorta and the doctor’s efforts to fix it led to blockages of blood supply to the patient’s right leg and foot. King lost wages from being out of work due to the injury, and currently has numbness in his leg and foot, which gives him limited use of the limb.
King acknowledged that he did not carefully read the arbitration agreement before signing it. However, the ruling states that the arbitration agreement was not clearly written, and it was given to the patient with several other medical related documents. King thought he needed to sign the arbitration agreement simply to become a patient; he did not understand that signing the document could limit his legal rights in case anything went wrong during the surgery.
Medical malpractice case can continue.
The ruling states that the arbitration agreement was obtained due to a breach of fudiciary trust from which the defendants benefited, and it is thereby unenforceable.
Our medical malpractice attorneys in North Carolina and Virginia are glad that this patient did not die from this medical mistake. Damaging the aorta is a very serious medical mistake and many patients die from such an error. There are hundreds of thousands of medical errors in the US every year, and many of them are serious.
Our medical malpractice attorneys have had experience with ‘routine’ surgery cases that have gone awry and left the patient with serious personal injuries.
One case involved a patient with chronic pelvic pain who had a laparoscopic hysterectomy. After the procedure, it was discovered that the woman had a perforated bowel from the surgery. She had a severe infection that required several follow up surgeries to repair the damage. Even after the wash out procedures to clear out the infection, she still needed two more operations.
This was a very serious medical error that could have killed her if it had not been treated. Even though the condition was eventually remedied, our client suffered due to the multiple surgeries. We settled that medical malpractice case for $750,000.