Medical Malpractice Case

Jury Verdict:
$ 877,000.00

Believed to be fourth largest verdict in Frederick County history, and third largest medical malpractice verdict

Case Name
Charles E. Swecker, II v. Stanley Y. Chung, M.D.
Civil Case No. 10-C-99-002466-MM

Court and Presiding Judge
Circuit Court for Frederick County, Maryland
The Honorable Mary Anne Stepler

Plaintiff’s Co-Counsel with Mr. Campen
Stephen S. Burgoon
Frederick, Maryland

Facts and Injuries
Charles (“Bo”) Swecker was a 36 year old truck driver who slipped on a loading dock during a delivery, falling on his elbow and causing loose cartilage in his elbow. He visited Dr. Stanley Chung, a Frederick orthopedic surgeon, who immediately scheduled Mr. Swecker for arthroscopic surgery in February, 1998, to remove the loose cartilage. Evidence ultimately showed the procedure was the first arthroscopic elbow surgery Dr. Chung had conducted as a lead surgeon. During the surgery, Dr. Chung failed to follow the proper measurement procedures and made the incision for the surgical instruments in the wrong location, thereby severing the median nerve in Mr. Swecker’s right arm. Said nerve controlled the feeling and strength in the thumb and much of the first two fingers of Mr. Swecker’s prominent right hand.

Despite complaints of severe pain in the arm and hand by Mr. Swecker in post-surgical visits to Dr. Chung, Dr. Chung insisted there was no serious nerve damage and prescribed pain medication. By the time Mr. Swecker finally sought a second opinion from Dr. Leo Rozmaryn, an orthopedic surgeon in Germantown, Maryland six (6) months after the surgery, it was too late for Dr. Rozmaryn’s corrective surgery to reattach the nerve effectively.

Dr. Rozmaryn and Dr. E. Shaw Wilgis, of Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore, testified as medical experts on Mr. Swecker’s behalf. A vocational rehabilitation expert and an economist also testified as to the limits the injuries had made to Mr. Swecker’s earning potential and the future economic losses as a result.

Out-of-pocket damages presented at trial included:

1. Past medical bills $ 25,000.00
2. Past lost wages $ 21,000.00
3. Future lost income $ 156,000.00

The defense called two medical experts to testify Dr. Chung had not been negligent, and a vocational rehabilitation expert and an economist to testify Mr. Swecker’s effective loss of the use of his right hand would not affect his employability.

Case Outcome
After a five day trial, a Jury Verdict of $ 877,000.00

Consisting of:

1. Past medical bills $ 25,000.00
2. Past lost wages $ 21,000.00
3. Future lost income $ 156,000.00
4. Non-economic damages $ 675,000.00

Pretrial Settlement Offers
From Dr. Chung’s insurer, Med Mutual – $150,000.

Special Remarks
The jury verdict was subsequently reduced to $762,000, due to the statutory provisions of the Annotated Code of Maryland which established an arbitrary, but automatic, cap on non-economic damages of $560,000 for injuries that occurred in medical negligence cases in 1998.

The verdict was handed down on a Friday. With Mr. Swecker’s permission, and knowing the verdict would be reduced, Mr. Campen called opposing counsel and offered to settle the case for $750,000. In response, Med Mutual offered $450,000, which offer was rejected. The defense chose to appeal the case all of the way to the Court of Appeals (the highest court in Maryland) and lost. Even though the verdict had been reduced, by the time the case was ultimately decided. The addition of post-judgment interest forced Med Mutual to eventually pay Mr. Swecker more than the original verdict.

 

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