Phil Willman Obtains Defense Win in Medical Malpractice Case Involving Loss of Eye from Uveitis Infection

August 26, 2019 01:40 PM

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IADC Member Philip L. Willman and David Perron, both attorneys at Brown & James in St. Louis, obtained a defense verdict for their clients.

A St. Louis County Circuit Court jury entered a verdict in favor of the defense in a case involving the loss of a woman’s eye from a uveitis infection on April 18, 2019. Brown & James attorneys Philip Willman and David Perron represented two of the defendants, a retina specialist and her practice group. Mercy Hospital St. Louis and one of its ophthalmologists were represented by Ken Bean and Laurie Wright of Sandberg Phoenix.

There was no settlement offer from Willman’s clients after the pretrial demand of $2.75 million by plaintiff Carol Thomeczek, a married female nurse.

According to the record, Thomeczek received treatment from the defendant retinal specialist for her right eye on July 8, 2015. She complained of watering and itching, big floaters and a gray spot in that eye. She also complained of light sensitivity and an achy feeling. The retinal specialist reached the diagnosis of anterior uveitis. She noted her doubt that it was infectious.

The next day, July 9, plaintiff complained she could not see anything since the night before. Her visual acuity in the right eye was 20/hand motion. The retinal specialist noted the presence of uveitis with hypopyon, which involves inflammatory cells in the anterior chamber of the eye. She ordered a B-scan ultrasound, which was positive for vitreous debris, but negative for a retinal detachment, posterior vitreous detachment, lesion or mass. Part of the plan was to administer prednisone, a corticosteroid used to treat inflammatory diseases.

On July 12, plaintiff presented to Mercy Hospital St. Louis, complaining of severe right eye pain. The defendant Mercy ophthalmologist ordered a CT scan, which indicated there was mild proptosis with scleral thickening, but no evidence of a subperiosteal abscess. He diagnosed plaintiff with right eye idiopathic orbital inflammatory syndrome. He admitted her to the hospital for close observation and increased plaintiff’s prednisone dosage.

The next day, July 13, the Mercy ophthalmologist re-examined plaintiff. He noted improved periorbital edema and eye pain. On July 14, plaintiff reported her pain was better. The Mercy ophthalmologist noted her orbital inflammation syndrome was improving. On July 16, he reported concerns about the protracted course of plaintiff’s intraocular inflammation and lack of recovery of vision on IV steroids.

The plaintiff was discharged on July 17 with a diagnosis of right eye orbital inflammatory syndrome with panuveitis, of unknown etiology, because no infectious sources were identified. Plaintiff was then examined by the retinal specialist. She completed a B-scan ultrasound, which was positive for hypopyon. She diagnosed plaintiff with orbital inflammatory syndrome, with a suspicion of Tolosa/Hunt Syndrome (THS), a rare disorder characterized by severe and unilateral headaches with orbital pain, along with weakness and paralysis of certain eye muscles.

The plaintiff returned to Mercy Hospital St. Louis, where the Mercy ophthalmologist examined plaintiff and indicated his concern for THS. Plaintiff was readmitted for another round of IV steroids.

On July 19, the Mercy ophthalmologist did a follow-up consultation and reported plaintiff’s eye was completely swollen shut and she was experiencing severe periorbital and globe pain, nausea and dry heaves. His impression was acute glaucoma secondary to orbital congestion and inflammation. He ordered an urgent repeat CT scan and oculoplastics consultation. An oculofacial plastic surgeon examined plaintiff. His impression was inflammation, non-responsive to steroids, caused by an infection. He reported the need for retina/uveitis evaluation with a B-scan ultrasound and a tap biopsy with simultaneous injection of antibiotics.

The plaintiff was discharged from Mercy Hospital St. Louis, and then went to the emergency room at Saint Louis University Hospital. An ophthalmologist on faculty at Saint Louis University diagnosed plaintiff with uveitis eye infection and surgically removed plaintiff’s right eye.

Philip Willman is a principal who devotes his trial practice to defending physicians, medical schools, nurses, hospitals, nursing homes, psychologists, and other healthcare providers in medical negligence and healthcare lawsuits. David Perron is an associate focusing on healthcare liability.

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