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Home E-Weekly November 14, 2017

Why Did This High School Student Attend Her Prom in a Wheelchair?

Published: November 13, 2017

PARALYZED The woman had to attend her prom and graduation in a wheelchair, according to reports. (photo courtesy of

A New Jersey woman won a $1.2 million lawsuit against her surgeon after he partially severed a nerve during a surgical biopsy for a benign growth — a procedure her lawyer says was unnecessary.

In the spring of 2013. Samantha Alpert, then 17 years old, went to see Steven Robbins, MD, for an osteochondroma, a benign bone growth in her left femur, according to the suit. She had been diagnosed with the condition 10 years prior and it had not posed a problem, but she was going away to college the next year and wanted it removed for cosmetic purposes, says Ms. Alpert's attorney, Bruce Nagel.

A jury last month determined that Dr. Robbins was negligent for ordering the biopsy without explaining alternative methods for handling the condition. Ms. Robbins also failed to tell the woman that the chance of the growth turning cancerous was a fraction of a percent, says Mr. Nagel.

Dr. Robbins ordered an MRI for the growth and, after noticing a, "suspicious finding," suggested that Ms. Alpert get a biopsy for the osteochondroma, says Mr. Nagel.

During the biopsy, the doctor partially cut the saphenous nerve, leaving Ms. Alpert in, "excruciating pain," and causing her to be temporarily paralyzed for the next several months, says Mr. Nagel. As a result of her injuries, Ms. Alpert — once a star tennis player — cannot play the sport anymore, says the suit. She also had to go to her prom and graduation in a wheelchair, and even now — 4 years after the incident — cannot walk more than a mile without sitting down, says Mr. Nagel.

There's no treatment for the condition and Mr. Alpert should expect to have permanent numbness and pain on the inside of her knee, says Mr. Nagel. The attorney argues that the surgical biopsy was unnecessary because the possibility of the growth becoming dangerous was very small.

"The proper care was to remove it," says Mr. Nagel.

Dr. Robbins should have told his patient about the low chances of the tumor turning harmful and should have informed her of any alternative measures she could take, says Mr. Nagel.

The Center for Orthopedics in West Orange, N.J., where Dr. Robbins worked during the surgery, according to the suit, said when reached by phone last week that he has not worked there in years. A lawyer for Dr. Robbins did not return a call for comment.

Anna Merriman

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