PHILADELPHIA - The Superior Court of Pennsylvania has affirmed a $4.5 million award to a woman who sued Temple Hospital and several doctors for failing to diagnose infections after her knee surgery, resulting in the 72-year old woman having her leg amputated above her knee.
Judge Ann Lazarus wrote the court opinion on Sept. 25, with Judge Eugene Strassburger III concurring.
Annabelle Glasgow underwent a double knee replacement in 2010, performed by Easwaran Balasubramanian, aka Dr. Bala, at Temple Hospital. Glasgow, 72 at the time of surgery, had a history of heart failure, stroke, hypertension and diabetes, increasing her risk of potential circulation issues.
Following the surgery, Glasgow had an additional five procedures to stop multiple infections and suffered pressure sores and pain. In 2011, Dr. Bala told Glasgow due to finding that the infected wound tissues had again reopened and separated, leaving the knee prosthesis visible, Glasgow would need a knee fusion, which would make the joint unbendable, or an amputation.
In 2012, Glasgow consulted with Dr. Scott Levin at Penn Presbyterian Hospital, who found “considerably more obstruction of her leg circulation” than the Temple doctors thought, which gave Glasgow no choice but to amputate. Glasgow had her leg amputated above the knee in 2012 and several more procedures were done to “re-implant the right knee prosthesis.”
Glasgow sued Temple and her treating doctors in February 2013, alleging medical negligence and corporate negligence, claiming all the infections post-surgery, procedures and the amputation were a direct result of their medical negligence.
Glasgow alleged her risks were not properly assessed in light of her medical history and for having the potential for an increased risk of poor wound healing or infections. Glasgow’s expert witness, Dr. Lawrence Shall, said that had Dr. Bala taken wound cultures or synovial fluid biopsies, the results would have established if Glasgow’s implants were too infected or still viable. Glasgow also claimed that Temple failed to “timely and properly treat her post-operative infections” during her care in Temple’s acute rehabilitation unit.
In 2016, the trial court entered the jury award to Glasgow of $4,268,758 for pain and suffering, lost wages, cost of care, and future costs, denying the defendants’ motions for a new trial or JNOV.
On appeal, the defendants argued they should be given a new trial and that the trial court abused its discretion in denying Temple its motion for a nonsuit judgment. The appeal claims Glasgow’s experts’ testimonies were speculative and unqualified and claimed the jury verdict was based on sympathy and prejudice.
Lazarus confirmed that despite Shall’s subspecialty being sports medicine while Bala’s is in joint replacement, “this Court has held that the testifying expert need not even practice in the same name specialty as the defendant doctor," quoting Shall’s testimony that “the principles of treating postoperative infection in the face of implantation of foreign material is the same.”
“The issue was one for the jury to resolve,” Lazarus stated, affirming the trial court’s denial of the Motion for a JNOV. Lazarus concluded there was “sufficient evidence presented at trial” that the physicians and nursing care Glasgow received “fell below the standard of care or caused or increased the risk of harm.”
Emphasizing the case was not about the knee surgery itself but “the infections and complications that arose after plaintiff’s surgery and how her pre-operative care may have impacted those complications,” Lazarus affirmed the judgment, stating, “the trial court opinion comprehensively discusses and properly resolves these issues.”
The Superior Court of Pennsylvania Case No. is 2384 EDA 2016.