Type of action: Medical malpractice
Injuries alleged: Permanent injury to left heel and Achilles tendon
Name of case: Carter v. Buck
Court: Fredericksburg Circuit Court
Case no.: CL21-323
Tried before: Judge
Name of judge or mediator: Judge Sarah L. Deneke
Date resolved: 7/20/2022
Special damages: $127,239.27 in past medical expenses
Verdict or settlement: Verdict
Amount: $0 (defense)
Attorney for defendant (and city): Carlyle R. “Randy” Wimbish III, Richmond
Description of case: Ms. Carter presented to Dr. Buck, a podiatrist, in May 2019 with complaints of persistent pain in her left heel that had gotten progressively worse over the last year. Dr. Buck took X-rays, which revealed a large bone spur on the posterior surface of the calcaneus. She diagnosed Ms. Carter with a bone spur and Achilles tendonitis. After several weeks of conservative treatment did not resolve her complaints, Dr. Buck offered a surgical option. She told Ms. Carter that it could take up to a year to fully recover from surgery. Ms. Carter decided to proceed with surgery.
The surgery took place on Aug. 8, 2019. To completely remove the bone spur, Dr. Buck had to remove and reattach the Achilles tendon. One of four anchors that Dr. Buck intended to use to reattach the tendon would not hold because of soft bone in the area, so she proceeded to reattach the tendon using three anchors.
Ms. Carter’s initial response to the surgery was positive, but by December she reported significant pain in her left foot, particularly when walking down steps. Dr. Buck ordered an MRI which showed the Achilles tendon was intact with the anchors in place, but that there was substantial inflammation around the tendon. Dr. Buck discussed conservative treatment for this inflammation, but also mentioned a potential revision surgery. Ms. Carter decided to obtain a second opinion, and never returned to Dr. Buck’s office.
Ms. Carter ultimately came under the care of Dr. Patel at VCU. In June 2020, he performed revision surgery. At trial, he claimed to have found a “crater” in the back of Ms. Carter’s heel caused by Dr. Buck’s surgery, even though no such finding was mentioned in his operative report or any other record at VCU. His surgery included removing additional bone from the heel, removing approximately 75% of the Achilles tendon, and performing a tendon transfer using another tendon that flexes the big toe. In the months after Dr. Patel’s surgery, most of Ms. Carter’s preop pain complaints improved or resolved, but she developed a new complaint of pain on the plantar surface of her foot. She also developed tarsal tunnel syndrome which required an additional surgery to correct, a complication of Dr. Patel’s surgery.
At trial, Dr. McGuigan testified that Dr. Buck breached the standard of care by removing too much bone from the posterior surface of Ms. Carter’s heel; not removing enough bone from the superior surface of the heel; and improperly placing the surgical anchors. Dr. Patel testified that all his treatment was caused by Dr. Buck’s surgery. Ms. Carter testified that she could no longer exercise like she had before Dr. Buck’s surgery and that she had significant physical limitations that affected almost all activities of daily living.
Dr. Buck’s expert, a former president of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons and director of a major podiatric surgery residency program, testified that Dr. Buck fully complied with the standard of care and refuted each of the criticisms made by Dr. McGuigan. He further testified that Ms. Carter’s current problems were caused not by Dr. Buck’s surgery, but by Dr. Patel’s removal of a significant amount of bone from the plantar surface of Ms. Carter’s heel, which the expert characterized as medically unnecessary.
The jury deliberated approximately 45 minutes before returning a defense verdict.
Defense counsel Carlyle R. Wimbish III provided case information. [022-T-121]