Because every case is different – degree of negligence and injuries – there is no single answer for what your case may be worth for settlement or jury verdict. It is helpful, however, to look at the facts of other compartment syndrome lawsuits that have resolved through settlement or jury verdict to get a sense of what your case may be worth.
Compartment Syndrome Case #1 – Broken Arm
In a case handled by our office, a 7-year-old female broke her arm at home practicing gymnastics. On presentation to the hospital, the patient was noted to have suffered a severe fracture to her right arm just above the elbow that required surgery. Over the course of several hours leading to surgery, the patient slow lost sensation and motor function in her right hand. The pulses in her wrist were diminished as well.
Following surgery, the surgeon noted that the child’s pulses in her right wrist had not returned nor had her motor or sensory function. Despite this concerning presentation, no other treatment was provided to the patient, and she was discharged home the next day, with instruction to return for follow up in 2 weeks.
At her 2 week follow up, the surgeon discovered that the patient remained without any motor function or feeling in her right hand. The surgeon diagnosed her with suffering from a subacute compartment syndrome. The child went on to develop contractures in her injured hand that caused her fingers to curl up. The child’s family sought a second opinion from a different surgeon who quickly discovered the child had sustained a vascular injury from the original fracture which led to a compartment syndrome in her right arm that was not timely diagnosed. The second surgeon took the patient back to the operating room and discovered that much of the tissue in her patient’s forearm had died. Ultimately, the child was left with a non-functional hand that will have stunted growth in the future.
We filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the original hospital and surgeon. We alleged that the child had obvious signs of compartment syndrome before and after her initial surgery that were neither diagnosed nor treated. This delay led to irreversible damages to our client’s right forearm.
The defendants contended that the child’s presentation because highly unusual, especially, given her lack of pain out of proportion.
The case settled without a trial for $4,500,000.
Compartment Syndrome Case #2 – Possible Stroke
In the case of People v. Harper, filed in Michigan, the plaintiff was a woman in her 40s who presented to the hospital with signs and symptoms (left sided body weakness) consistent with a stroke. In response to her possible stroke, the patient was treated with blood thinners.
During her hospital admission, the patient developed compartment syndrome that was not treated in time. The patient ultimately had to have her arm amputated.
The plaintiff’s experts argued that vascular surgery doctors who had been called upon to assess plaintiff’s arm for possible compartment syndrome were professionally negligent because they failed to recognize and appreciate signs of compartment syndrome. Specifically, the doctors failed to measure the patient’s compartment pressures in the arm and failed to closely monitor the patient’s arm. The plaintiff proved that due to the defendants’ negligence, her arm deteriorated until she lost full function of the arm. The tissue damage was too extensive to save the arm and, ultimately, plaintiff suffered an amputation of her left arm.
The Defendants argued that the plaintiff did not have typical signs of compartment syndrome and that pressure measurements were not required. The Defendants also asserted that the patient had an underlying blood disorder that was so extensive that even prompt identification of compartment syndrome would not have changed the outcome.
The jury returned a verdict of $1,500,000.
Compartment Syndrome Case #3 – Knee Replacement Surgery
In a Massachusetts medical malpractice lawsuit, the plaintiff contended she lost her leg due to a negligent delay in treating her compartment syndrome.
In June 2004, the plaintiff, a 72-year-old woman with a history of diabetes, hypertension, vascular disease and carotid artery surgery, underwent a right knee replacement performed by two of the defendant surgeons.
Following her surgery, the plaintiff complained of decreased sensation in her right leg, swelling in her knee, and weakness, numbness and pain in her knee, hamstring, thigh and foot. She continued to have persistent unrelieved right leg and foot complaints, which progressed to complete foot drop and impaired blood flow in her leg.
After the plaintiff developed the foot drop, the defendant neurologist examined her and considered a diagnosis of compartment syndrome, but no further work-up was initiated at that time.
For the next two days, the defendant surgeons failed to perform surgery to relieve the compartment pressure in the plaintiff’s leg.
Ten days after the initial surgery, the defendant surgeons brought the patient back to the operating room for surgery to relieve the pressure in her anterior and deep posterior compartments. Unfortunately, the compartment syndrome had caused irreversible tissue, muscle and nerve death, as well as extensive vascular compromise, making it impossible to save the patient’s leg.
The patient underwent an above-the-knee amputation of her right leg.
The plaintiff’s experts contended the defendants were negligent for failing to timely recognize and treat the plaintiff’s signs and symptoms of compartment syndrome and vascular compromise, despite her complaints of numbness, pain, weakness, loss of sensation and foot drop in the days following her surgery. The plaintiff experts also opined that her right leg could have been successfully treated and salvaged had she received the proper surgical care and treatment.
In their defense, the surgeons denied that the plaintiff had developed compartment syndrome and argued that the tissue, nerve and vascular compromise in the plaintiff’s right leg was caused by a rare vascular condition that had developed post-operatively as a result of her history of vascular disease.
This lawsuit settled for $1,500,000 before trial.
Compartment Syndrome Case #4 – Broken Tibia
In another medical malpractice case filed in Michigan, the plaintiff, a 52-year-old married female dental hygienist, claimed permanent disability and deformity as a result of her doctors’ alleged failure to diagnose compartment syndrome following surgery. Defendants disputed the claim but settled the case for $738,000 prior to trial.
The defendant surgeon performed open reduction surgery for a tibial plateau fracture on plaintiff at defendant hospital. The plaintiff complained of severe pain after the surgery, even though she was receiving morphine. It was noted in her hospital records that she had loss of motor function following surgery. Defendants diagnosed her with tourniquet palsy, a condition related to the surgery, and she was released. Plaintiff presented at a follow-up appointment with complaints of pain and was diagnosed with compartment syndrome.
The plaintiff alleged that the defendants failed to diagnose compartment syndrome and failed to timely perform an immediate decompression by a fasciotomy, which is the standard of care. The plaintiff’s expert testified that defendants missed the 8- to 12-hour window of opportunity to correct the compartment syndrome. The plaintiff claimed the defendants should have removed the dressing and taken a pressure reading on the interior anterior compartment when the muscles that dorsiflex the foot were not working following surgery. She also maintained that she was examined only once after surgery by defendant’s resident and the attending physician did not properly supervise the resident or perform his own exam. Plaintiff claimed permanent disability and disfigurement and her spouse sought damages for loss of consortium.
The defendants contended the plaintiff did not have the classic signs and symptoms of compartment syndrome and it was appropriate to assume that her pain was the result of tourniquet palsy. They argued that they met the standard of care and defendant resident was appropriately monitored.
Though the compartment syndrome lawsuits described above all resulted in substantial settlements or verdicts, most reported compartment syndrome lawsuits resulted in a defense verdict or zero recovery for the plaintiff.
The medical malpractice lawyers of Lupetin and Unatin focus much of their practice on helping patients injured by medical malpractice, including compartment syndrome, get the justice and compensation they deserve. If you or a loved one has suffered a catastrophic injury caused by compartment syndrome, we encourage you to call us to find out if you have a medical malpractice case. We will speak with you and investigate your case at no charge. We will provide you answers to your questions. We only get paid if we take your case and make a recovery.