Tom Metier of Metier Law Firm, LLC, of Cheyenne, Wyoming and Fort Colllins, Colorado, obtained a $9 million verdict for plaintiffs Louis and Rebecca Prager against Campbell County Memorial Hospital and Brian Cullison, M.D. for medical negligence. Metier was acting as trial counsel for Casper attorneys Todd Ingram and Scott Olheiser of Ingram Olheiser, P.C. Ingram and Olheiser successfully litigated the case prior to trial. The verdict is believed to be the highest medical malpractice verdict on record in Wyoming. According to officials and news archives, the previous record was $1.5 million.
“This case goes right to the heart of whether the people of Wyoming are entitled to good, solid health care. We are helpless when we come to the emergency room on a back board and we must be able to trust our hospitals and our doctors”
The verdict in favor of Louis and Rebecca Prager was rendered late last Thursday, October 27th, 2011, in Federal District Court in Cheyenne. The jury found that Cullison, a Board Certified Emergency Physician employed by the regional hospital, breached the standard of medical care by failing to diagnose Louis Prager's broken neck, causing Prager permanent left shoulder paralysis, debilitating pain and depriving Prager of the ability to work. The jury also found the negligence of Cullison and the hospital harmed the Prager's marital relationship, resulting in loss of consortium damages to Rebecca Prager.
On December 9, 2008, Prager, an oil field worker, was rushed to Campbell County Memorial Hospital Emergency Department by ambulance from the scene of a rollover accident, immobilized on a backboard, and wearing a neck brace. Cullison released Prager from the emergency department without a cervical collar and without performing a physical exam or taking x-rays of Prager's neck, despite the fact Prager complained of neck pain and had been in the rollover accident. Cullison ordered x-ray imaging of Prager's head and back, but failed to order x-rays of Prager's neck.
"Dr. Cullison assured Mr. Prager that he had no broken bones and was "fine". Mr. Prager reasonably believed x-rays of his neck had been acquired, as he had been placed in a CT machine and x-rays had been taken," according to Metier.
Prager returned to the hospital four days later with multiple unstable cervical spine fractures and loss of use of his left arm and shoulder, requiring emergency neck fusion surgery. Because of Cullison's failure to diagnose the broken neck, Prager sustained permanent C5 nerve root injuries.
"Mr. Prager has had to undergo a second neck fusion and will have additional surgeries in the future including procedures to implant a spinal cord stimulator in an attempt to reduce the intensity of his pain," said attorney Todd Ingram.
At trial, Campbell County Memorial Hospital and Dr. Cullison denied that Cullison had failed to perform a physical examination of Prager's neck, and denied that a person involved in a rollover crash complaining of neck pain should have neck x-rays, according to court records.
"Under cross-examination, the defendant's own expert, Dr. George J. Shaw, a Board Certified Emergency Physician of the University of Cincinnati Medical School, testified that if Cullison had actually performed a physical exam of Mr. Prager's neck, Prager's nerves would have been screaming and x-rays would have been required," said Metier.
The jury determined that the negligence of Cullison and Campbell County Memorial Hospital caused Mr. Prager damages in the amount $7.0 million and loss of consortium damages to his wife, Rebecca Prager, in the amount of $2.0 million.
"Louis and Rebecca Prager had been married for 30 years and have children and grandchildren. Mr. Prager is largely confined to his house by his pain and disability. These injuries have permanently altered the remaining years of their lives," said Ingram.
"This case goes right to the heart of whether the people of Wyoming are entitled to good, solid health care. We are helpless when we come to the emergency room on a back board and we must be able to trust our hospitals and our doctors," according to Metier. "None of us can afford to stand idly by and allow a hospital or a doctor to escape the consequences of rendering sub-standard medical care. If we do, that is what we will have, substandard medical care," Metier said.
"Todd Ingram and Scott Olheiser are outstanding attorneys who did a marvelous job of litigating the case prior to trial. Todd's assistance and insight during trial was invaluable," Metier said.
For 30 years, Tom Metier has represented people and their families seriously hurt by the negligence of others in claims and trials across the western United States, taking on large corporations and powerful insurance companies. Tom's vision is that Metier Law Firm be a place where victims of catastrophic personal injury and their families can go to find safety, comfort and strength in their time of need. Tom's firm blends tough trial work with innovative technology to convey their clients' stories to a judge and jury. Today, Metier Law Firm, LLC is one of the leading personal injury litigation firms in the country with offices in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and Fort Collins, Denver and Colorado Springs, Colorado.