Little Rock VA Hospital Pays Vet $725K for Paralysis Due to Surgical Error

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Arkansas Business reports that a federal judge recently awarded 75 year-old Walter Paul Hoover $725,000 in damages for botched back surgery in 2009. In a case that is sadly indicative of the substandard care many veterans receive at VA hospitals, Mr. Hoover suffered complete paralysis of his quadriceps due to the misplacement of a surgical screw during a procedure to repair his injured back at John L. McClellan Memorial Veterans Hospital in Little Rock in 2009. The damage award was significantly less than the five million dollars Hoover and his wife had demanded in the claim they filed with the Department of Veterans Affairs, but an attorney for the couple reported that they were satisfied that justice had been done.

Misplaced surgical screw caused permanent paralysis

According to the original complaint, the plaintiff alleged that surgeons had “misplaced screws into Mr. Hoover’s spinal canal” causing injuries that resulted in “paralysis, primarily on the left, including no quadriceps function, numbness, significantly increased pain.” A second surgery to correct the damage produced no improvement in Mr. Hoover’s condition. Although the VA Regional Counsel Tammy Kennedy had written in a 2010 that the VA’s “investigation did not disclose any negligent acts or omissions,” Judge James Moody, Jr. found that “Dr. Jeffrey Oppenheimer placed the screw in a manner which damaged and injured Mr. Hoover’s L-3 nerve root,” causing Mr. Hoover’s permanent injury.

While no amount of money can truly compensate for the loss of mobility and function Mr. Hoover suffered, this case does demonstrate that veterans can obtain justice for VA negligence. The road may be long and rugged; in Mr. Hoover’s case the action took approximately five years, but those who persevere can obtain the compensation they deserve.

At Marcari, Russotto, Spencer & Balaban, we work every day to help ensure that veterans are treated with dignity and respect.

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