Woman’s malpractice suit against Mitchell doctor goes to high courtExcluded expert testimony would have persuaded jury, plaintiff cliams.
By: Chris Mueller, The Daily Republic
PIERRE — A Plankinton woman’s attorney told the state Supreme Court on Wednesday that testimony excluded from a malpractice trial unfairly damaged her case against a Mitchell doctor.
Following a three-day trial last January in Mitchell, a jury rejected Bette Thompson’s malpractice claim against orthopedic surgeon Chris Krouse and Avera Queen of Peace Hospital.
Thompson and her attorney Casey Bridgman, of Wessington Springs, appealed the jury’s decision. Oral arguments were presented Wednesday before the South Dakota Supreme Court at the Capitol in Pierre.
Thompson and her husband Norman Thompson were both in the front row of the courtroom. Krouse did not attend the hearing.
Krouse performed surgery on Thompson’s left wrist after she broke it in a fall in October 2007. A plate and screws were inserted into her wrist during the surgery.
She claims Krouse failed to properly realign her fractured wrist bone and left a screw in a position where it could penetrate her wrist joint and result in excruciating pain. She asked the jury to award her $40,000 for her pain and suffering, as well as compensation for medical expenses, attorney’s fees and travel costs relating to her surgery and treatment.
The excluded testimony was part of a video deposition of Charles R. Clark, an Iowa City-based orthopedic surgeon who was an expert witness for Thompson. Part of the video was played for the trial jury, but part of it was excluded.
Clark claimed in the excluded testimony that Krouse breached the standard of care simply by not telling Thompson of the possible complications that could occur after her surgery, specifically regarding the possible problems with the placement of the screws and alignment of the bone.
“I don’t think anyone would doubt that this testimony is crucial to the case,” Bridgman said Wednesday.
Trial judge Tim Bjorkman ruled Bridgman did not properly disclose the testimony prior to the trial and decided to exclude it.
“I believe that it was disclosed,” Bridgman said. “There was enough there to put the defendant on notice that we’re dealing with an issue of failure to inform.”
Attorney Roger Sudbeck, of Sioux Falls, represents Krouse and Avera. He argued no mention was made prior to trial of Clark’s claim that Krouse had committed malpractice by not telling Thompson about possible complications with her surgery.
He also argued testimony Clark and other witnesses gave about the duty of a doctor to inform a patient of possible problems was sufficient. Bjorkman was “fair to the defense” in limiting testimony in that regard, he said.
“This issue of which they now complain was in front of the jury through multiple witnesses and in opening and closing statements,” Sudbeck said.
The Supreme Court will issue a decision at a later date.