October 2018 

Denver: Sharuzi and Kannenberg Secure Defense Verdict for Hospital and OR Nurse

HPS attorneys Jacqueline Sharuzi and Casey Kannenberg won a defense verdict for a Denver-area hospital and operating room circulating nurse. Plaintiff alleged that the nurse violated the standard of care by failing to adequately assess her for fall risk and failing to direct and control staff such that sufficient personnel were available to transfer her from the operating room table to a transport stretcher. Plaintiff further alleged that as a result of these failures, she was allowed to fall to the operating room floor, sustaining injuries when she struck the floor. Alleged injuries included traumatic brain injury, vertigo, right shoulder rotator cuff tear and rupture of the long biceps tendon, post-concussion syndrome, brachial plexus stretch injury, depression, and anxiety. The plaintiff further argued that the hospital was responsible for the nurse’s alleged negligence pursuant to the doctrine of respondeat superior.

The defense argued that the operating room nurse met the standard of care in assessing the patient, and that nothing she did or failed to do caused the plaintiff to fall to the operating room floor. Indeed, there were four transfer team members—including the operating surgeon, fourth-year resident surgeon, and anesthesiologist—and the nurse was the only transfer team member who did not physically have her hands on the patient. Furthermore, the defense argued that the nurse was not required to direct that additional or different personnel needed to be involved in the transfer. Last, the defense argued that all of the plaintiff’s post-incident complaints are explained by her extensive chronic medical history, including chronic vitamin B12 deficiencies, somatic symptom disorder (which caused her to exaggerate her symptoms), medication-related symptoms, and pre-existing right rotator partial thickness tear and rupture of the biceps tendon (confirmed as unchanged by pre-and post-incident MRIs).

At the end of a seven-day trial, plaintiff asked the jury to award her damages in the amount of $1.1 million, including damages for future medical care, future loss of earnings, past loss of earnings, and pain and suffering. The jury deliberated for just over 30 minutes after receiving the defense exhibits, and agreed with the defense, returning a unanimous verdict for the defense. In polling the jury, the defense learned that the only injury the jury attributed to the fall was a one-centimeter scalp laceration, and rejected the plaintiff’s arguments that she sustained the foregoing injuries.