On March 15th, an Essex County jury sitting in Newburyport rendered an $830,000 verdict in favor of a patient who suffered a neck and shoulder injury while under anesthesia at the North Shore Medical Center, Union Hospital.

The case, Grieco v. Riskalla et al., Essex Superior Court No. 1477CV0166, involved a 42-year-old female who was being positioned on an operating room table for routine shoulder surgery.  After she was anesthetized and medically paralyzed, her unsecured head fell off the table resulting in what the medical providers feared was a significant neck injury.

The surgery was canceled and the patient was kept overnight. Scans showed no fractures or spinal cord injury, but the plaintiff complained of persistent radiating neck pain.  On objective testing, she was determined to have suffered permanent injury to several of the nerves of her neck, which caused burning, radiating pain and significantly hampered her ability to rehabilitate her shoulder.  She was left with a “frozen shoulder” and chronic pain in her neck and upper back, with no further treatment options.

The case was brought against an anesthesiologist and his practice for failing to protect the patient’s head while she was under anesthesia.  The defendants claimed, contrary to the medical records, that there was no significant event in the OR, and that the plaintiff’s injuries were related to her shoulder and not any new injury to her neck.

After a week of trial and several hours of deliberations, the jury found the defendant anesthesiologist negligent and awarded the plaintiff $830,000 in damages.

“The plaintiff in this case was not looking to win the lottery, she was looking for recognition of what was allowed to happen to her while she was asleep, paralyzed and helpless in the operating room, and fair compensation for the injuries she sustained,” noted SUGARMAN partner Ben Zimmermann who tried the case for the plaintiff.  He added, “The case was tried well on both sides, and we are pleased that the jury, the ultimate determiner of facts in disputes like this, saw it our way.”