Home Medical Malpractice Doctor owes WV man $17 million in medical malpractice case

Doctor owes WV man $17 million in medical malpractice case

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A motorcyclist in West Virginia won a $17 million verdict against a surgeon accused of botching his spinal surgery, rendering him paralyzed.

A motorcyclist in West Virginia won a $17 million verdict against a surgeon accused of botching his spinal surgery, rendering him paralyzed.

Mike Rodgers could still feel his legs when he was brought to the largest hospital in West Virginia after a motorcycle accident in 2017, his lawyers said.

Two days later, they were numb.

Rodgers had two spinal surgeries at Charleston Area Medical Center that his lawyers said left him paralyzed from the waist down after his accident. They blamed his surgeon, Dr. John Orphanos, for allegedly failing to order the necessary scans of Rodgers’ spine before operating on him.

After an eight-day trial in Charleston, West Virginia, a jury sided with Rodgers.

Rodgers won a $17 million verdict against Orphanos in West Virginia state court on March 24, court filings show. The verdict included $10.4 million in damages for Rodgers’ paraplegia and an additional $6.8 million relating to a stroke he had in 2020.

Emails McClatchy News sent to Orphanos and his office were not immediately returned on Tuesday, April 5. It is not clear if Orphanos remains employed at CAMC, though his profile is still listed on the hospital’s website.

A representative from the hospital also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“We are very grateful to the jury who saw through the attempts to rationalize the defendant’s conduct and delivered a jury verdict that will take care of Mr. Rodgers and provide the services he will need,” Greg Haddad of Bailey Glasser LLP, which represented Rodgers, said in a statement. “Although his health will never be restored, this verdict sends a message to doctors and institutions who try to take shortcuts with patients and by doing so, play with their lives.”

Rodgers sued Orphanos in the Circuit Court of Kanawha County in May 2019. According to the lawsuit, Rodgers was brought to the hospital in Charleston, West Virginia, after a motorcycle accident on June 4, 2017.

An initial CT scan of his chest showed Rodgers had a spinal fracture but otherwise “showed no neurological deficits,” his attorney said in the complaint.

“For the first two days at CAMC, Mr. Rodgers had sensation in and could move all his extremities,” Haddad said.

Orphanos’ initial treatment plan required Rodgers to wear a back brace for six to eight weeks, the lawsuit states. But he later changed his mind and recommended surgery.

According to the complaint, Orphanos didn’t order an MRI scan of Rodgers’ spine before the surgery — which his attorney said would have shown “whether there were any existing or potential problems with the spinal cord and soft tissue surrounding the fracture.”

He missed key problems with Rodgers’ spine and failed to use special monitoring equipment during the surgery as a result, Haddad said in the lawsuit.

Rodgers had some of his vertebrae fused during surgery on the night of June 6, 2017, the lawsuit states. When he woke up in the recovery room, he had reportedly lost all motor function and sensation in his lower extremities.

When Orphanos did finally order an MRI, Rodgers’ attorney said, the imaging was distorted because of the surgery. A second type of scan would have provided a detailed image, but Orphanos reportedly failed to order one.

Rodgers then underwent a second surgery, after which he continued to experience a loss of motor function and sensation.

He has been a paraplegic ever since, according to the lawsuit.

Rodgers uses a wheelchair and has “a nonexistent chance of recovery,” his attorneys said in the complaint. They accused Orphanos of negligence and gross negligence as a result.

It was not immediately clear if Orphanos plans to appeal the verdict, and information regarding his legal representation was not available.

Hayley Fowler is a reporter at The Charlotte Observer covering breaking and real-time news across North and South Carolina. She has a journalism degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and previously worked as a legal reporter in New York City before joining the Observer in 2019.

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