The word is not out because it’s top secret.
But here’s the story behind the story of a downstate-record April 29 out-of-court settlement of a Champaign County medical-malpractice lawsuit filed in 2017 by Spiros Law.
On the eve of a scheduled 30-day trial before Circuit Judge Jason Bohm, the defendants agreed to a $29.5 million settlement protected by a legal confidentiality agreement that bars the parties from disclosing its details.
Contacted by The News-Gazette, Spiros Law declined to discuss the matter and said any disclosures are limited to what was published in the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin’s Jury Verdict Reporter.
That read, “James D. Spiros and Miranda L. Soucie of Spiros Law Firm reached a $29.5 million settlement April 29 on behalf of a client who had a catastrophic brain-stem stroke, the firm said.”
“The 26-year-old man was undergoing a neuroradiology procedure at a downtown hospital when an embolization catheter became occluded and ruptured. The plaintiff’s attorneys alleged the rupture was caused by the doctor over-pressurizing the catheter and/or a defect to the catheter.”
Medical sources say catheter embolization places “medications or synthetic materials called embolic agents through a catheter into a blood vessel to block blood flow to an area of the body.” It’s described as a “highly effective way to control bleeding and is much less invasive than open surgery.”
The assertion that the catheter became “occluded” means it became stopped up, something analogous to thick make-up blocking skin pores.
Who is the plaintiff who was injured? Who are the defendants who agreed to a record settlement?
The parties say they can’t say. But an examination of judicial calendars and court records plus courthouse scuttlebutt tell the tale of “2017L000130.”
The lawsuit is otherwise known as Robert Renfrow vs. Dr. Huan Wang, medical-device maker Medtronic and a variety of Carle Foundation Hospital-related entities.
The lawsuit alleges that on April 11, 2016, Wang, a neurosurgeon, was performing an “attempted embolization of Robert’s AVM” — arteriovenous malformation, a tangle of abnormal blood vessels connecting arteries and veins. AVMs occur most often in the brain or spine but can develop anywhere in the body, medical sources say.
The lawsuit alleges that Wang “overpressurized the catheter, causing it to rupture.” That, the lawsuit alleges, was caused by the doctor’s failure to properly inspect the catheter before use, failing to follow manufacturer instructions and continuing to inject medication identified as Onyx “when he should have known” that it was “not exiting the catheter tip.”
Onyx is described as a “relatively new liquid embolic agent that is slowly transformed into a solid state by contact with blood.” A physician who reviewed the case and submitted an affidavit on Renfrow’s behalf said injection of the Onyx into Renfrow’s brain “led to a stroke and permanent injuries.”
The allegations against Medtronic are related to product liability. It charges Medtronic did not “ensure (the catheter) would not kink, bend, flatten or rupture” and was, as a consequence, “unreasonably dangerous.”
Because of Renfrow’s stroke, he suffered “severe, disabling injuries” that will continue to cause him pain, extreme medical expenses and loss of the ability to work.
“He has been prevented from participating in the enjoyments of living common to all people,” the lawsuit stated. “He has also suffered significant disfigurement.”
The settlement was reached after a long day of negotiations among the small army of lawyers representing the parties — two for Renfrow, four for Carle and seven for Medtronic.
The judge memorialized the agreement with the following entry on the case docket sheet.
“Cause called for final pre-trial hearing. Representation that the parties have reached a confidential settlement. Terms of the settlement stated on the record. The trial setting is hereby vacated. The court will await final documents.”