Case details

Negligent surgery left her unable to ambulate: patient





Result type

Not present

debilitation, fracture, leg, muscle disease, right distal femur, weakness
On May 31, 2012, plaintiff Leanese Brown, 69, a retiree, came under the care of Dr. Mohamed Lameer, an orthopedic surgeon, for treatment of a comminuted fracture of the right distal femur. Brown previously sought treatment at various facilities, including Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, in Los Angeles, for a number of serious health issues, including progressive dementia. However, all of her treatment had stopped without explanation by July 2011. Then, on May 30, 2012, Brown fell and fractured her right leg. She subsequently presented to Lameer the next day and underwent open reduction and internal fixation surgery at Palmdale Regional Medical Center, in Palmdale. She then followed up with Lameer at his office for three visits. During the first office visit, Lameer observed an internal rotation of Brown’s leg and ordered gentle physical therapy to address the condition. On the third office visit, Lameer informed Brown and her family members that union of the bone had not been attained and that he recommended a revision open-reduction-and-internal-fixation procedure with a bone graft. However, Brown’s dementia had worsened, so her family members did not return her for further care with Lameer. As a result, Brown underwent a revision procedure at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center on Jan. 19, 2013, at which time union of the bone was ultimately achieved. Brown claimed she was unable to ambulate due to her leg condition until it was resolved in January 2013. However, by that time, her comorbidities left her bedridden and on a tracheostomy. Brown sued Lameer, alleging that Lameer was negligent in the performance of the May 2012 surgery and that this negligence constituted medical malpractice. Plaintiff’s counsel contended that during the surgery on May 31, 2012, Lameer negligently placed the plate and screws in a way that caused Brown’s leg to be fixed in an internally rotated position. Brown’s family members testified that Brown was in good health at the time of the fall. The plaintiff’s treating physicians also testified that Brown’s muscle condition, blood pressure, and other alleged comorbidities were all stable and that, at the time of the surgery and post-surgical treatment, Brown was in good health. Thus, the plaintiff’s expert orthopedic surgeon opined that the placement of the internal fixation was below the standard of care and that Lameer’s post-operative care of Brown was also below standard. Defense counsel argued that the surgery performed by Lameer was appropriate and that Lameer timely diagnosed the internally rotated leg. Counsel also argued that Lameer’s recommendation of a revision surgery was timely and appropriate. However, counsel noted that despite the recommendation for a revision procedure on Aug. 17, 2012, Brown did not receive additional care or treatment of her femur until Jan. 19, 2013. The defense’s orthopedic surgery expert opined that the internal rotation of the leg occurred after the surgery and was a result of polymyositis, which is a muscle disease that causes weakness and debilitation. Additionally, the expert opined that Brown’s muscle condition and other numerous comorbidities would have prevented her from ambulating, regardless of the placement of the plates and screws. Defense counsel further noted that the testimonies of the plaintiff’s treating physicians, which claimed that Brown’s alleged comorbidities were all stable and that Brown was in good health, were from when they last saw Brown in 2011, and not from near the time of the surgery in 2013. In addition, defense counsel noted that the plaintiff’s expert orthopedic surgeon acknowledged that nonunion was a known and acceptable risk and complication of open-reduction-and-internal-fixation procedures. In response, Brown’s family members denied any knowledge of prior falls with emergency treatment, or of Brown’s alleged 2009 diagnosis and sporadic treatment of polymyositis., Brown claimed that she suffered an internal rotational deformity of the left leg. She attempted gentle physical therapy to address the condition, per Lameer’s recommendation, but union had not been attained. Brown claimed that she remained non-ambulatory and in bed for several months due to the condition of her leg until she ultimately sought treatment at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, where she underwent a revision surgery on Jan. 19, 2013. She was then discharged to a rehabilitation facility for additional physical and occupational therapy. However, she claimed that despite the aggressive physical therapy, she was never able walk due to the condition of her leg. Brown alleged that she remained bedridden for an extended period of time as a result of not being able to walk on her leg and that she ultimately developed a devastating case of pneumonia, wherein she required a breathing tube (a tracheostomy) and ultimately necessitated her permanent admission to a nursing home. Thus, Brown sought recovery of past medical costs, which the parties stipulated on the first day of trial to total $19,651.07. Brown also sought recovery of damages for her past and future pain and suffering. (Brown did not claim that any of her care and treatment beyond the January 2013 revision procedure was attributable to Lameer and thus, Brown did not seek recovery of future medical costs.) Defense counsel noted that the plaintiff’s expert orthopedic surgeon conducted an examination of Brown in November 2015, at which time the expert documented in photographs and via a written report that Brown had contractures and deformities in all extremities and that he assessed Brown as being completely incapacitated. Defense counsel argued that any mobility issues or need to be bedridden was due to Brown’s comorbidities, including her sporadically treated polymyositis, dementia, and pneumonia.
Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Los Angeles, CA

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