A man who was discharged from hospital with a broken neck, after he was assured by his doctor that he was “fine”, has won his an undiagnosed broken neck settlement and been awarded €5.4m compensation by a jury at the Federal District Court in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
Louis Prager was a healthy husband, father and grandfather who was employed as an oil field worker near his home in Campbell County, Wyoming. On December 9 2008, Louis was taken to Campbell County Memorial Hospital after being involved in a rollover accident in his car. Immobilised and wearing a neck brace, Louis was seen to by Dr. Brian Cullison in the Accident and Emergency Department, who organised a CT scan and for x-rays to be taken of Louis´ head and back.
Dr Cullison released Louis the same day – without conducting a physical examination, despite his patient complaining on neck pain, and minus the neck brace – but four days later, Louis returned to the Accident and Emergency Department of Campbell County Memorial Hospital having lost the use of his left arm and shoulder. He was diagnosed with multiple cervical spine fractures which had resulted C5 nerve root injuries and underwent emergency neck fusion surgery.
Despite several further surgeries to ease the pain and implant a spinal cord stimulator, the condition became permanent and, after taking legal advice, Luis sued Dr Cullison and the Campbell County Memorial Hospital for doctor negligence.
At the trial, the jury was told the hospital and Dr Cullison both deny the allegations of doctor negligence – with the doctor claiming that he had performed a physical examination and it was not usual practice for the victim of a rollover car accident to have neck x-rays. However, a medical expert stated that had the doctor examined Louis’ neck, he could not have failed to miss the injury.
After deliberating in private, the jury ruled in favour of Louis, and awarded him €5.4m for the pain and suffering he had experienced due to the doctor’s negligence, his loss of amenity and loss of income as he is no longer able to work. The jury also awarded Louis’ wife, Rebecca, a further €1.5m for loss of consortium – the overall figure setting a new record for the highest doctor negligence claim settlement in the State of Wyoming.