Atlanta, GA— Georgia jurors last week handed down a $9 million verdict for the lifelong hand injury a child suffered after being treated for a broken arm. Velaga v. Resurgens, Inc., et al., 18EV005600.
The Fulton County State Court jury deliberated for two days before concluding Dr. Yvonne Satterwhite and Resurgens Orthopaedics were responsible for the child's 2016 injury, which has required multiple surgeries, ongoing therapy, and has significantly limited the use of his now-disfigured left hand.
The injury followed treatment for a fracture to the 7-year-old’s arm. His family contends Satterwhite wrapped a splint too tightly, cutting off blood to the child’s hand.
Last week’s verdict exceeds the $2 million pre-trial settlement offer the defense made in the case, the child’s attorney, The Moses Firm’s Moses Kim, told CVN.
The six-day trial centered on what caused the injury and what occurred after that injury was discovered. During closings last week, Kim reminded jurors of evidence he said proved Satterwhite wrapped the child’s splint with a combination of self-adhesive “Coban” wrap over “ACE” flexible wrap, a pairing he said was medically inappropriate and cut off circulation to the child’s hand. And he said Satterwhite ignored tearful complaints from the child that the wrap was painfully tight.
“Listen to your patient. It doesn’t matter if your patient is 7 or 70,” Kim told jurors. “You as a doctor have a responsibility to listen to your patients and take those concerns seriously.”
Kim added that Satterwhite then altered medical notes after the injury, deleting her earlier references to Coban.
“Dr. Satterwhite knew she had created a dangerous wrap with Coban that caused an injury and then what did she do? She intentionally, multiple times, deleted Coban from [the child’s] medical record.” Kim said. “She knew that was important information, and she actively deleted it.”
But the defense argues the injury was caused by a rare, unforeseeable condition and that Satterwhite’s treatment was not negligent. During closings, The Weathington Firm’s Paul Weathington walked jurors through Satterwhite’s wrapping of the splint, which he said met the standard of care. And he highlighted X-ray imaging he said showed an unusual fluid collection in the child’s arm unrelated to the wrap, which he maintained was the ultimate cause of the child’s injuries.
“[It’s] a rare injury nobody has ever seen. It’s like burn-like injuries downstream from the release of whatever this material was,” Weathington said. “And that’s not anyone’s fault.”
And Weathington argued that Satterwhite’s changes to her notes were typical edits before those records became final, and made at a time when she did not know the extent of the child’s injury.
“[Any reference to] Coban was not important at that point in time,” Weathington said of Satterwhite’s changes. “And she did not know there was going to be any sort of bad outcome. She didn’t alter any medical record. She edited transcription.”
After the verdict, Kim told CVN he hadn’t yet spoken to jurors, but he believed evidence concerning Satterwhite’s use of “Coban” with “Ace” wrap, and her removal of references to Coban in her medical notes combined to form the “nail in the coffin” in the defense case.
“Those two pieces were critical for the jury. That just demonstrated that what the doctor did was so unusual and she admitted that it was unusual for her to do that,” Kim said. “Those are the pieces of evidence that really turned the case.”
Kim added that he was pleased with the result, though he felt the case should not have had to go before a jury.
“This is a case that, in my view, should have never been tried, but unfortunately the insurance company wasn’t willing to take full and complete responsibility for what happened to this boy,” Kim said. “I’m hoping that this verdict will help balance the universe in his case.”
In an emailed statement to CVN, Weathington acknowledged his disappointment in the verdict, but added the case presented a range of difficult elements.
“This was a difficult, hotly contested case with an incredibly sympathetic young plaintiff and with a very appealing family. Efforts were made to try and settle the case pre-suit but the plaintiffs and the defense had a wide disparity in evaluation of the case. Thus, the case went to the jury to decide.” Weathington wrote.
“We had strong expert support for Dr. Satterwhite’s care and mounted an aggressive defense,” Weathington added. “But, the jury saw the case as they did and we respect their verdict.”
Email Arlin Crisco at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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