Our claims team’s deep understanding of local defense, plaintiff counsel, and judicial environments combined with our strong relationships and resources has resulted in a 10-year average of over 96% defense verdicts in members’ jury trials. Our most recent case was no exception.
Surgical Complication Not Evidence of Negligence
The Physicians Insurance defense team is proud to announce that a Washington jury rejected a $2.7 million claim against one of its policyholders. The case centered around a patient’s allegation that a damaged ureter during a hysterectomy (a known risk of the procedure) was caused by improper surgical technique. Physicians Insurance assembled a legal team to vigorously defend our client—a physician with over 30 years in practice—and prove that the standard of care was met. They engaged with two deeply credentialed experts (an ob-gyn and a urologist) to refute the plaintiff’s claim.
A post-trial interview with jury members revealed just how effective the Physicians Insurance case was. The jury appreciated the focus on informing them of the facts and medical details of the case, as well as the “calm” tone our attorneys took with the witness, especially in contrast to the plaintiff’s more “aggressive” demeanor.
The team knew how crucial it was that the jury understand everything about the procedure—from relevant anatomy to the medical procedure, and from the standard of care to the known risks of the operation. To that end, they employed focus groups to test the understandability of the defense’s case, which helped them tell a succinct and simple story—and that thoroughness made a big impact on the jurors.
The two experts testified extensively that the surgery was indicated, appropriate informed consent was obtained, and the surgery was appropriately performed. It is believed that the damaged ureter was the result of a thermal burn, which in an injury of this nature takes days to declare itself.
The plaintiff experienced a delayed recovery due to the surgical complication, but recovered fully. The plaintiff alleged the possibility for future medical needs, but at trial made no claims for past or future medical care. The plaintiff’s claim was non-economic, for general damages only. The jury related to us that they found the experts both credible and understandable, and that they admired our legal team’s calm and respectful approach. Add all these factors together, and it’s no wonder they were able to confidently return a defense verdict.
More Trial Results
The following is a sample list of results from cases in which we defended policyholders. Many cases are private and unavailable for public viewing, but we hope that by reading the following results, you will be able to see how we approach case strategy and defense.
A patient alleged that a damaged ureter during a hysterectomy (a known risk of the procedure) was caused by improper surgical technique. Physicians Insurance engaged with two deeply credentialed experts (an ob-gyn and a urologist) to refute the plaintiff’s $2.7M claim. Our experts testified extensively that the surgery was indicated, appropriate informed consent was obtained, and the surgery was appropriately performed. It is believed that the damaged ureter was the result of a thermal burn, which in an injury of this nature takes days to declare itself. The plaintiff experienced a delayed recovery due to the surgical complication, but recovered fully. The plaintiff alleged the possibility for future medical needs, but at trial made no claims for past or future medical care.
Result: Defense verdict. King County, Judge McCoy
The family of a young patient alleged wrongful death due to cerebral venous sinus thrombosis, following placement of an epidural thoracic blood patch for a CSF leak post breast reduction surgery. The plaintiffs alleged the blood patch should have been placed closer to the dural puncture but was not. The plaintiffs requested $60M, based on the grief of their loss. The involved hospital entity settled their claim in advance of trial. The remaining claim against our physician member was soundly disputed through the discovery process, focus group research, and the testimony and support of well-qualified medical experts.
Result: Defense verdict. King County Superior Court, Judge Cahan
A 52-year-old male alleged lack of informed consent and improper performance of a low anterior resection. The patient had undergone a screening colonoscopy, at which time three polyps were removed. One of them, a well-differentiated adenocarcinoma, had invaded the superficial submucosa and had a negative margin of 0.8mm. Anastomosis couldn’t be achieved at the time of surgery, so the patient had a temporary colostomy, which was successfully reversed. The pathology from this surgery showed no evidence of residual cancer or cancer spread. The plaintiff argued that this meant the need for surgery was never indicated, and claimed altered bowel habits affecting his quality of life and ability to work. The plaintiff claimed past and future medical expenses, past and future wage loss, and general damages.
Result: Defense verdict. Thurston County Superior Court, Judge Wilson
A 52-year-old female alleged that a barium enema study ordered due to a prior history of rectal cancer was performed without lubricants, that there was a failure to adequately insert the catheter prior to inflation of the balloon, and that the physician had refused to terminate the study when instructed to do so by the plaintiff. The plaintiff alleged rectal injury and post-traumatic stress disorder. The plaintiff’s allegation was vehemently disputed, and was not supported by witnesses. The patient claimed medical expenses and general damages.
Result: Defense verdict. Multnomah County Superior Court, Judge Matarazzo
A 55-year-old female alleged inappropriate prescription for Wellbutrin to treat low libido. The patient had a complex medical history, was on multiple medications, and was undergoing treatment with a neurologist. The physician advised the patient of the potential side effect of a slight lowering of the seizure threshold. The patient reported that she had not had a seizure in more than a year and was allowed to drive. The patient saw her neurologist several months later, and the neurologist was advised of the prescription, although that physician later did not recall being told. The patient was later involved in an early-morning single-vehicle auto accident, resulting in bodily injury. She alleged that the accident was caused by a seizure. The codefendant neurologist settled prior to trial. The patient claimed past and future medical expenses, future wage loss, and general damages.
Result: Defense verdict. Multnomah County Superior Court, Judge Greenlick
The estate of a newborn male alleged failure to urgently deliver a term infant after a non-stress test was performed on the mother due to a lack of fetal movement. The non-stress test was not reassuring, but was not ominous. The pregnant mother was asked to return to the clinic within hours for a biophysical profile, when the technician would be available. The biophysical profile found no fetal breathing or gross fetal movement, among other concerning findings. The results were discussed with the patient, and she was advised that an immediate delivery by cesarean section was possible. The patient was instructed to report to the Labor and Delivery unit at the hospital. The patient went home to arrange care for an older child, and when she presented at the hospital, a fetal demise had occurred. The estate claimed future economic loss and general damages.
Result: Defense verdict. King County Superior Court, Judge Rogoff
The plaintiff presented to the emergency department - on two occasions within a matter of days - with complaints of lower-back pain. On his third visit, the emergency-medicine physician was impressed with his complaints and ordered lumbar imaging, which demonstrated foraminal stenosis at L4-5. Neurosurgery at another facility was consulted, but because it was not believed that the patient’s condition represented an emergency, the neurosurgery consultant recommended that the patient be followed as an outpatient. The patient was discharged, but returned hours later and was admitted for observation. The neurosurgery department again declined to accept the patient. Unbeknownst to the emergency-medicine physician and physician assistant who had been providing the patient with care, the patient remained in the hospital under a hospitalist’s care for three days without being transferred. The patient’s condition deteriorated, and when he was transferred, he was diagnosed with a thoracic epidural abscess, which resulted in the patient becoming paraplegic with severe spasticity, neuropathic pain, and bowel and bladder dysfunction. The plaintiff claimed past and future medical expense, future wage loss, and general damages. A lawsuit was initially filed against the hospital and the hospitalist, which was settled prior to the litigation, and a second lawsuit was filed against those providers.
Result: Defense verdict. King County Superior Court, Judge Andrus