Errant Needlestick Costs Surgery Center $1.25 Million
Patient claims permanent damage stemming from negligence during blood draw.
Published: January 27, 2012
An Indiana surgery center must pay $1.25 million to a patient who says he sustained permanent arm and hand injuries from a careless blood draw performed at the facility.
On Dec. 8, 2000, Terrance Potts presented to Illiana Surgery and Medical Center to undergo lab work and a blood draw before having surgery on his left hand the following day. According to court records, Mr. Potts allegedly sustained a nerve injury to his left arm due to "negligent medical care" rendered by Salwa Gomaa, the Illiana employee who performed the blood draw. In the lawsuit filed by Mr. Potts and his wife Veronica, the couple claimed that Mr. Potts now suffers from a permanent condition known as complex regional pain syndrome, as a result of the nerve injury.
Mr. Potts, a former ironworker, "is a thin guy who's very muscular," says Dale Allen, the plaintiffs' attorney. "This guy was very fit, and gave blood on a routine basis. You could see the veins in his arms; you didn't have to locate them," he says. "What [Ms. Gomaa] did was insert the needle too deeply and hit a medial nerve, which led to Mr. Potts' injuries."
According to Mr. Allen, Ms. Gomaa had previously been a physician in Egypt before coming to the United States and working as a "pseudo-nurse" at the Munster, Ind.-based Illiana. "She was working at the facility as 'less than a doctor,' but she wasn't an RN either," says Mr. Allen. "However, she was certainly qualified to do a routine blood draw."
The surgery center denied negligence or wrongdoing on Ms. Gomaa's part, maintaining that the blood draw was "medically indicated and done in a manner that complied with the applicable standard of care," according to court records. The defendants also asserted that Mr. Potts - who had progressive carpal tunnel syndrome - exaggerated his claims, and the center disputed the nature and severity of Mr. Potts' injuries, given his pre-existing clinical condition unrelated to the blood draw.
This past October, a Lake County (Ind.) Circuit Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, awarding $2.5 million. Both parties stipulated to reduce the judgment to $1.25 million, which the court did on Nov. 3, 2011.
"[Ms. Gomaa] was found to have fallen below the standard of care here, in failing to insert the needle at a proper depth," says Mr. Allen. "It was really an odd case, because [Mr. Potts'] veins were so visible. She didn't need to go to the depth she went. She could've barely punctured the skin on his forearm and drawn plenty of blood. It was shameful, really."
Attorneys for Illiana Surgery Center did not respond to requests for comment.
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