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Fairfax County jury sides with defense in med-mal suit — Defense verdict

Virginia Lawyers Weekly//December 5, 2022

Fairfax County jury sides with defense in med-mal suit — Defense verdict

Virginia Lawyers Weekly//December 5, 2022//

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Type of action: Medical malpractice

Injuries alleged: Permanent injury to the posterior interosseous nerve during the surgical repair of a dislocated elbow

Court: Fairfax County Circuit Court

Tried before: Jury

Date resolved: 8/31/2022

Verdict or settlement: Verdict

Amount: $0 (defense)

Attorneys for defendant (and city): Michael E. Olszewski and Kambria T. Lannetti, Fairfax

Description of case: The plaintiff presented to the emergency department on July 12, 2017, with a severe right elbow dislocation and a grade one open right wrist fracture, after falling off a ladder in her home and landing on her right arm. While in the hospital, the defendant, an orthopaedic surgeon, performed surgery on the plaintiff to repair her right elbow. During the surgery, he reattached all the plaintiff’s ligaments to her humerus using Mitek sutures. Unbeknownst to the defendant, while reattaching the lateral collateral ligament, he placed a Mitek suture around the plaintiff’s posterior interosseous nerve.


Following surgery, the plaintiff discovered that she had deficits in her ability to extend her right fingers and thumb. In June 2018, the plaintiff underwent a nerve exploration surgery, during which it was discovered that the defendant’s Mitek suture had incarcerated the posterior interosseous nerve. At that time, the suture was removed, and she was given a nerve graft. The nerve graft was ultimately unsuccessful and, in June 2019, the plaintiff underwent a tendon transfer to restore her motor function.

The plaintiff brought this suit in June 2019, alleging the defendant failed to perform a neurovascular examination of her right hand preoperatively and postoperatively. She further alleged that the defendant was negligent in placing the Mitek suture around her posterior interosseous nerve. The plaintiff asserted that she had remaining deficits and pain in her hand and, as such, is unable to return to her work as an art teacher and artist.


At trial, the plaintiff’s expert witness opined the defendant was negligent in performing the elbow repair surgery because the defendant did not dissect out/identify the posterior interosseous nerve. The defense’s expert witnesses (a hand surgeon and an orthopaedic surgeon) refuted the plaintiff’s contention that the nerve should have been dissected out during surgery and opined that the management of the plaintiff’s nerve injury would have been the same if the injury to the nerve had been discovered during surgery. The defense further argued the remaining deficits and pain the plaintiff alleged were not a result of the injury to her posterior interosseous nerve but, rather, due to the trauma she sustained during her fall.

After five days of evidence, the jury deliberated for four hours and returned a unanimous defense verdict.

Kambria Lannetti, counsel for the defendant, provided case information.


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