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Home / Verdicts & Settlements / Defense verdict reached in $2.5M suit over staph infection — Defense verdict

Defense verdict reached in $2.5M suit over staph infection — Defense verdict

Type of action: Medical malpractice

Injuries alleged: Permanent scarring, pain and limited range of motion following multiple irrigation and debridement surgeries to clean out staph infection in sternoclavicular joint

Court: Prince William County Circuit Court

Case no.: CL 170006312-00

Tried before: Jury

Name of judge or mediator: Judge Robert P. Coleman

Date resolved: 11/17/2022

Special damages: $245,000 in past medical bills

Demand: $2,500,000

Verdict or settlement: Verdict



Amount: $0 (defense)

Attorneys for defendant (and city): Byron Mitchell and Christina Dwyer, Alexandria

Description of case: Plaintiff Abigail Curran, age 32, presented to the Fauquier ED on Dec. 13, 2012, complaining of severe left-sided neck pain and a left lower tooth abscess. A neck CT was ordered by the ER physician. The defendant radiologist interpreted the neck CT and saw no evidence of tooth abscess nor any other abnormality, but for an incidental tiny 1.4 mm nodule in a lymph node. Curran was discharged with a diagnosis of spasmodic torticollis and told to follow up with her PCP. Four days later, Curran presented to Inova Loudoun ER with worsening symptoms. A repeat neck CT showed raging infection in her left sternoclavicular joint. She received IV antibiotics via a PICC line at Inova Loudoun for a week. Dissatisfied with her treatment and progress at Inova Loudoun, Curran flew on Christmas Eve to Mass General Hospital in Boston, where her parents had connections. She was hospitalized for a month at Mass General and underwent three I&D surgeries to clear the infection. Curran sued the radiologist at Fauquier Hospital claiming he negligently missed the sternoclavicular joint infection on the Dec. 13, 2012 neck CT, resulting in a protracted IV antibiotic course, multiple surgeries, profound pain and disability. The plaintiff’s expert radiologist testified that the infection was obvious, was visible on 30% of the images on the CT, he saw it instantly when he reviewed the CT, and he compared it to a crater in the middle of the Arizona desert. Defense experts called the abnormality subtle, testified that they did not see it until they scrutinized the CT for a third time, and they explained that it was below the threshold of what a reasonable radiologist would be expected to see given the limited information the defendant had at the time. At trial, the jury heard testimony that the plaintiff, now 42 and a horse masseuse, had done competitive horse jumping since this event, as well as riding ATVs through the woods. After three days of evidence, the jury deliberated for about two hours before returning with a defense verdict.


Defense counsel Byron J. Mitchell provided case information.