Articles & Updates

Summary Judgment Granted For Pittsburg Emergency Room Physician

On the morning of December 19, 2015, the twenty-nine (29) year old plaintiff sustained an injury to her right knee. She was taken to the emergency room in Pittsburg via ambulance and was seen by our client, an ER physician. Plaintiff complained that her knee gave out earlier that morning and that she was in severe pain.  The patient and her family were planning to leave to go to Colorado for a vacation later in the day and the patient was anxious to leave for the trip.

X-rays of plaintiff’s knee where taken, but when the ER doctor went to review the x-ray he looked at three x-rays of another patient, a 14 year old boy, who had also presented to the ER with a knee injury during that ER shift.  It was unclear how the other patient’s x-rays ended up being reviewed, but it appeared to relate to the mouse and procedure for accessing imaging electronically.  The x-rays on the 14 year old were negative (the x-rays on the plaintiff which were not seen at the initial visit demonstrated a tibial plateau fracture).

Based on the patient’s symptoms and the x-ray findings, the ER Doctor thought the patient had twisted her knee. The patient seemed comfortable with her injury and eager to go to Colorado when she left the Emergency Department later in the morning.  Plaintiff and her family left for Colorado soon after her ER discharge, but her symptoms continued to worsen on the trip.  The patient and her family stopped in Wichita, Kansas at 4:23 p.m. and she was seen in the ER at a metropolitan Medical Center. 

The patient reported increased pain and swelling, and that she could feel the bones twisting in her leg. Plaintiff was again x-rayed and it was discovered that she had a tibial plateau fracture in her right leg (the same fracture seen on the ER x-ray earlier that day in Pittsburg).  Plaintiff was hospitalized, and taken to the operating room for treatment.  She went on to experience a compartment syndrome which required significant additional surgery, treatment, inpatient and rehabilitation admissions.  Plaintiff claimed that the failure to timely diagnose and treat the tibial plateau fracture resulted in significant additional medical care, as well as permanent disfigurement and disability.

The defense was successfully developed through both board certified emergency medicine doctors and orthopedic surgeons to support the case.  The patient was appropriately evaluated in the ER, and due to the uncertainty regarding how the incorrect x-rays were reviewed the fracture was not identified and treated originally.  The care was on a Saturday and the evidence was that there had been no change in the fracture between ER visits, and that had the patient been admitted at the original facility she would not have been treated by the orthopedic surgeon until Monday.  While the patient developed a compartment syndrome, the evidence was that would have developed regardless of which hospital she was in, and the treatment would have been the same in either location. 

On February 6, 2018 the Court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment. The case was defended by Brian J. Niceswanger and Stephanie A. Preut of Evans & Dixon.