An ex-security guard’s spinal condition, allegedly misdiagnosed by an emergency room physician at Good Samaritan Hospital, left him a quadriplegic and entitles him to more than $20 million in damages, his attorney told a jury Monday.
“This case is a case of life and death for Kyrus Rogers,” plaintiff’s attorney Steven Friedman told the Los Angeles Superior Court panel weighing his client’s negligence and medical malpractice lawsuit.
Stephen Fraser, a lawyer for the medical center, countered in his closing argument that the plaintiff’s condition was very rare and that the physician, Dr. Brian Harris, acted reasonably under the circumstances.
“His immune system rebelled on itself,” Fraser said. “It attacked his spinal cord as if it was a foreign invader and 100 million forest fires started at the same time.”
The lawsuit against the hospital, which was filed in July 2013, blames Harris for allegedly failing to diagnose and treat Rogers for transverse myelitis, a condition that causes swelling and pressure on the spine and will result in permanent paralysis if left untreated.
According to his court papers, Rogers, then 34, collapsed while he was standing in the driveway of his home on May 3, 2012. He was a former athlete and in excellent medical condition at the time, his attorney said.
Rogers was rushed to Good Samaritan Hospital, where Harris never ordered a steroid treatment to halt the progress of the disease, nor did he require an MRI that would have revealed the plaintiff’s spinal lesion, according to court papers prepared by Friedman. Those actions were necessary because there is a brief window of opportunity to treat the disease, according to the plaintiff’s attorney.
Instead, Harris treated Rogers for “garden-variety” stress and muscle aches and discharged him with medication, according to Friedman.
“It was `two pills, go home,”‘ he told jurors.
Within a month of seeing Harris, Rogers’ spinal lesion grew and he became a quadriplegic, according to Friedman.
“We’re not trying to prove that Good Samaritan is a horrible place, but that Dr. Harris made a mistake,” Friedman said.
Jurors were shown a video of Rogers’ mother bathing her son at her home in Missouri, where the plaintiff now lives. Friedman told jurors that his client has hopes of having a better life.
“He wants to live, he even wants to walk,” Friedman said.
Although Harris is an independent contractor and not a Good Samaritan employee, he has the authority to act on the hospital’s behalf, according to Friedman.
Harris was one of the parties originally sued, but is no longer a defendant in the case.
Fraser said that if the jury is inclined to award damages, the amount should be no more than $3 million to $4 million. He said that amount would provide Rogers with 24-hour care for the rest of his life.
Fraser said transverse myelitis is a disease so unusual that some veteran doctors never see it during medical careers. He said it is “medically naive” to think it could have been prevented in Rogers’ case by giving him steroids and that an MRI would not have revealed any abnormalities.
–City News Service
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