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Stephen Toner Wins Defense Verdict In Month Long Medical Malpractice Trial In Westchester County

On October 24, 2017, Stephen Toner, won a defense verdict in Forte v Galeno & Phelps Memorial Hospital, Index No.: 60621/12 (Supreme Court, Westchester County). The case involved a then 55-year old, 350 pound man who underwent a decompressive laminectomy, and spinal fusion surgery from L3 through S1, with insertion of 8 pedicle screws and titanium rods, in his lower back. The plaintiff claimed that as a result of the misplacement of pedicle screws during that surgery he suffered nerve damage resulting in increased pain in his lower extremities. The plaintiff further claimed that the surgery also resulted in the development of a subdural hematoma, which compressed his cauda equina nerves of the lower spinal cord, causing permanent bowel and bladder incontinence and erectile dysfunction. The specific claims against our client, the surgeon, were that the surgery should never have been performed on this patient due to his extensive prior degenerative spinal condition; that the operation was improperly performed in the misplacement of 2 pedicle screws into the spinal canal; and that the surgeon failed to follow up on the patient’s post-operative complaints of paresthesia prior to those complaints becoming permanent. Mr. Toner successfully argued that the positions of the screw placement, while sub-optimal, was not malpractice, and that the pedicle screws did not impact on the nerves in the spinal canal. He further presented expert medical testimony that the post-operative complaints of the plaintiff were consistent with what would have been anticipated in such an extensive 7-hour operation on a 350 pound man. The medical experts testifying on behalf of our client opined that the plaintiff did not have a cauda equina syndrome, but rather his bowel and bladder incontinence were the result of an aging prostate and other medical conditions unrelated to the surgery. As to the erectile dysfunction, Mr. Toner showed evidence of the plaintiff making similar complaints of this alleged injury to his medical providers years before the subject surgery. After 3 full weeks of testimony, the jury then deliberated for an additional two days, before coming back with a unanimous verdict for our client, exonerating the surgeon on all claims of medical malpractice against him.

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