On December 22, 2007, the twenty-seven (27) year old plaintiff fell while playing basketball which appeared to have caused the plaintiff to suffer a vertebral artery dissection, which is a tear to the internal layers of the wall of the vertebral artery. Immediately after his fall, he experienced neck pain, his symptoms worsened over time and the pain progressed in intensity and he developed neck stiffness. The patient’s head began to hurt, his left eye started to throb, became watery, he had difficulty keeping his left eye open and developed blurry vision. Plaintiff vomited several times and started feeling lightheaded and dizzy, and had no appetite. Two ER visits did not discover any significant pathology and he was given pain medications and sent home.
The patient’s symptoms continued, so he went to receive chiropractic care from Evans & Dixon’s client. The patient reported a left-sided headache made worse by movement. He reported that the local Level III ER evaluation included a CT scan and a lumbar puncture and that the results of both tests were normal. Our client took x-rays of the patient’s cervical spine. The patient’s left side eye was noted to be protruding and watered a lot, and nystagmus was charted as being present in the left eye. A subluxation of the fifth cervical vertebra was located and chiropractic adjustment to the neck was performed. The patient departed, returned home and took a nap. When he woke up, the patient felt much better and had regained his appetite.
The next day, the patient’s symptoms returned and the patient’s roommate drove him to our client’s office on January 4, 2008 for another chiropractic adjustment. Immediately after the adjustment was performed on the patient’s cervical spine, his eyes rolled back into his head, his right arm and left leg shook, and his speech became slurred. An ambulance was summoned and transported the patient to a metropolitan Hospital. Doctors diagnosed this fellow with a vertebral artery dissection for the first time and determined that he had suffered four strokes. The patient had a prolonged hospitalization and rehab, and claimed to have ongoing physical and functional deficits as a result of the more severe strokes, which allegedly occurred following the chiropractic care.
The patient filed suit and after extensive discovery, initially by the Hershewe Law Firm, P.C. and later by the Humphrey, Farrington & McClain, P.C. law firm prior to the matter proceeding to trial in Clay County Missouri in December 2009. The plaintiff sought $1.7 million dollars in damages. The jury was asked to determine whether the patient should have received chiropractic care in January 2008 and whether the chiropractic adjustment on January 4, 2008 caused a blood clot to dislodge and occlude blood vessels in the brain, causing the patient’s strokes. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Evans & Dixon’s clients.
On September 27, 2016, plaintiff filed his notice of Appeal and after briefing was completed Oral Arguments took place on January 22, 2018. The Missouri Court of Appeals, which included Chief Justice Zel M. Fischer, rejected the plaintiff’s claims on appeal on February 6, 2018. Plaintiff then sought rehearing and transfer and, eventually, sought review by the Missouri Supreme Court. On May 22, 2018, the Supreme Court denied appellant’s application, affirming the Court of Appeals decision. The case was defended at trial and through appeal by Brian J. Niceswanger and Stephanie A. Preut of Evans & Dixon.