Atlanta, GA— Jurors handed down a $4 million verdict late last month against a Georgia podiatry practice for the chronic pain one of its patients suffers after undergoing surgery for a broken ankle. Perron v. Village Podiatry Group, LLC, 17EV005257.
The Fulton County (Georgia) State Court jury deliberated for about three hours before concluding Village Podiatry Group LLC was responsible for the complex regional pain syndrome, or CRPS, Christine Perron says she developed following a 2016 surgery performed by a podiatrist who worked for the practice at the time, Dr. Bryan Russell. Perron contends Russell severed a nerve during the surgery and did not adequately treat her post-op symptoms of the injury, leaving her with the chronic pain condition that limits her activities.
The $4 million verdict falls below the $32 million to $64 million damage range Perron's attorney, Bell Law Firm's Lloyd Bell requested in closings. However, the verdict exceeds a $150,000 pre-trial settlement offer from Village Podiatry, according to a statement by Perron’s attorney, Bell Law Firm’s Dan Holloway. The verdict was ultimately reduced to $3 million based on a $1 million offset. That offset stemmed from a prior settlement under a separate insurance policy covering the podiatrist, Bell told CVN.
Perron underwent the 2016 surgery to treat a distal fibula fracture, or a break at the outer ankle, that she suffered in a fall. The four-day trial turned in part on when Perron suffered the nerve injury and whether Russell’s follow-up treatment was appropriate.
During her closing argument, Village Podiatry’s attorney, Nall and Miller’s Laura Eschleman, outlined evidence she said showed Perron’s nerve injury may not have occurred during Russell’s surgery. She noted testimony from one of Perron’s own treating physicians, Dr. Erroll Bailey. And Eschleman argued Bailey concluded the injury could have occurred when Perron broke her ankle, during Russell’s surgery, or at some point afterward.
“Even Dr. Bailey, the non-paid expert, says there are three distinct possibilities [when the nerve injury could have occurred],” Eschleman told jurors. “That means plaintiff hasn’t proven their case, more likely than not, that it happened during the surgery. Even Dr. Bailey agrees.”
But Bell pushed back on that contention, arguing Bailey’s findings during his own surgery on Perron established the nerve was likely severed during the operation Russell performed. And Bell contended that, in any event, Russell failed to adequately treat Perron’s complaints of nerve injury symptoms in time to avoid lifelong damage. Bell contrasted an audio recording Perron made of a post-op exam where she told Russell she suffered from intense pain, with Russell’s own notes of the exam, where he indicated she was improving.
“Dr. Russell has a responsibility to his patient, to listen to her, and to help her, and to care for her,” Bell said. “Instead, he minimizes her condition repeatedly.”
In an email to CVN after the verdict, Bell said he believed Perron’s recording of the post-op exam was a key to the jury’s verdict because it showed the doctor “blatantly misled her about her condition.”
Bell also praised the jury’s decision in light of the complex issues involved and the timing of the trial. “CRPS cases are extraordinarily difficult because the injury is essentially invisible and the mechanism of the condition is not well understood,” Bell said. “Also, the jury was asked to serve on the last week of the school year and right before a long, holiday weekend. Despite these challenges, they were engaged, thoughtful and serious-minded.”
In an email to CVN after the verdict, Eschleman noted the defense plans to challenge the decision.
"[The] defense team believes that there is clear reversible error in the case," Eschleman said.
Email Arlin Crisco at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bell Law Firm's Lloyd Bell and Dan Holloway represented the plaintiff.
Nall Miller's Laura D. Eschleman, Tivara Paul, and Shawn Choi represented the defense.
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