On May 2, 2014, the plaintiff, a 34 year old major in the United States Army, underwent a hysteroscopic myomectomy, a surgical procedure conducted within the confines of the uterus to remove fibroid tumors (also known as myomas). Two surgeons participated in the surgery. The plaintiff contended that the defendant primary surgeon, unaware that she had perforated the uterus at the inception of surgery, errantly directed a hysteroscope equipped with a morcellator through the uterine perforation and into a nerve rich environment in the lower abdomen. The plaintiff further contended that the primary surgeon proceeded to activate the morcellator believing that she was mincing and removing fibroid tissue, when in fact, she was mincing tissue that included nerves within the pelvic cavity. The plaintiff contended that these events occurred before the surgeon aborted the surgery when she finally deduced that a uterine perforation might have occurred.
At all stages of the litigation, the surgeon denied any irregularity in the conduct of the hysteroscopic procedure. However, evidence in the case suggested otherwise. The pathologist who examined the surgical specimen from the myomectomy reported that it included fimbriae from a Fallopian tube. The Fallopian tube is a structure located outside of and superior to the uterus. The pathologist took the extraordinary step of notifying the surgeon by email of the Fallopian tube finding. After receiving the pathologist’s email, the surgeon, after acknowledging receipt of the pathologist’s email, changed the content of the “draft” operative report. The “final” operative report, that the surgeon prepared for the plaintiff’s chart, omitted all references to her having activated the morcellator during the procedure. At deposition and in her responses to interrogatories, the surgeon flatly denied that the email in any way influenced her preparation of the final operative report.
Plaintiff contended that the surgeon’s negligent use of the morcellator caused her to sustain injuries to various pelvic nerves that control bowel and bladder function and vaginal sensation. Plaintiff also contended that she sustained nerve injury that led to her diagnosis of complex regional pain syndrome both in her abdomen and in her right leg.
Defendants contended that plaintiff was inconsistent in the reporting of her complaints and that she had a history of bowel and bladder complaints that long preceded the hysteroscopic procedure. In addition, defendants pointed to the absence of any neurophysiological testing that confirmed her nerve injury complaints. Defendants also contended that plaintiff’s complaints were of psychological origin, spawned by her documented history of post-traumatic stress syndrome arising out of two instances of rape and from other psychological trauma stemming from her combat duty during a 13 month tour in Afghanistan. Finally, defendants cited 2 separate neuropsychological examinations undergone by plaintiff that indicated that she was prone to greatly exaggerate injury complaints. One of the neuropsychological examinations had been conducted soon before the subject surgery. The other examination took place five months after the surgery.
Plaintiff, who had achieved the rank of Major in the Army, had a 13 year career marked by outstanding annual reviews that lauded her as a “rising star.” She also won a Bronze Star in connection with her combat tour in Afghanistan. Her career ended by reason of the subject injuries. Her doctors never released her for regular duty after the May 2, 2014 surgery. Plaintiff’s military career ended when she was evaluated as permanently disabled and discharged by reason of her disability two years later.
The defendant primary surgeon and co-defendant assistant surgeon settled the case for a total of $950,000 at mediation.