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Special Edition Legal Case Study

Healthcare Professionals and Medical Malpractice: A Case Study with Risk Management Strategies

Medical malpractice claims can be asserted against any healthcare provider. Although there may be a perception that physicians are held responsible for the majority of lawsuits, the reality is that healthcare professionals, including physical therapists, pharmacists and counselors are more frequently finding themselves defending the care they provide.

Physical Therapist Edition

Case Study: Therapy for Back Pain caused Injury

The defendant physical therapist owns a private practice whose specialty is treatment of orthopedic conditions. Initially, the patient (plaintiff), a 55 year-old male, received physical therapy from the defendant physical therapist following his total knee replacement. A year later, the patient was referred to the defendant physical therapist for treatment of his back pain. Approximately two years later, the patient contacted the defendant physical therapist to request consultation for his on-going back pain. Read the Full Case with Risk Management Recommendations


Read Previous Issues of the HPSO Special Edition Legal Case Study: Physical Therapist Edition

Pharmacist Edition

Case Study: Failure to refer patient to a physician, failure to counsel patient on medication uses and expectations, inflating a patient's expectations through false advertising, publishing false marketing material

A 42 year-old male patient (plaintiff) went to the defendant pharmacist's pharmacy for what seemed to be a bite or sore on the back of his leg. The area of concern was hard, blackish, painful in the center and had different shades of red around it. The patient advised the defendant pharmacist that he first noticed the area the prior evening when it was only a small red spot. Upon the defendant pharmacist's inspection of the patient's leg, the patient alleges that the pharmacist assessed the area as a brown recluse spider bite and stated "he had just the thing". Read the Full Case with Risk Management Recommendations


Read Previous Issues of the HPSO Special Edition Legal Case Study: Pharmacist Edition

Counselor Edition

Case Study: Failure to properly monitor and supervise services treating counselor who continually failed to establish professional boundaries and who developed a personal relationship with the client

The supervising counselor (defendant) was a Clinical Mental Health Counselor (LPCC) and Art Therapist employed at a university as a behavioral therapy consultant. The defendant counselor also maintained a private psychotherapy practice, which included both adult and child psychotherapy. As an experienced LPCC, the defendant counselor occasionally provided clinical supervision of Licensed Mental Health Counselors (LHMC) and met with them on fairly limited bases for purposes of counselor supervision. Read the Full Case with Risk Management Recommendations


Read Previous Issues of the HPSO Special Edition Legal Case Study: Counselors Edition

September 2008 Legal Case Study

Man Claims No Physical Therapy Personnel Were Nearby When Electrical Stimulation Machine Caused Electrical Shock - $50,000 Settlement With Machine Manufacturer - $1.46 Million Verdict Against Others.

The plaintiff, age forty-seven, was undergoing physical therapy in June 2002 with the use of an electrical stimulation machine. The machine had an emergency stop cable attached, which allowed a patient to quickly stop it in an emergency. During the plaintiff’s session, the physical therapist left him unattended. While the therapist was away the plaintiff believed he experienced an electrical shock. In a panic, he shouted for one or two minutes, but no one responded. When the physical therapist finally entered the room the plaintiff was partially unresponsive. The plaintiff had undergone the same treatment without difficulty three days earlier.

The plaintiff alleged post-traumatic stress disorder and pain disorder, which resulted from his emotional conversion disorder. The plaintiff claimed that a therapist should have remained within audible range of him at all times and if that had been done he would have been heard. The plaintiff also alleged that the clinic failed to provide him with the emergency stop cable.

The defendants contended that the physical therapist’s aide and physical therapist were within audible range and came to the plaintiffs aide immediately. The clinic claimed that it was not it policy to provide the emergency stop cable because the machine had multiple built-in safety redundancies which would prevent it from emitting excess electrical currents. The clinic also claimed that the cable was there and was plugged in. The defendants also claimed that there were no neurological findings of any injury.

According to a published account, the manufacturer of the electrical stimulation machine settled for $50,000 prior to trial. A jury returned a $1,461,532 verdict against all the defendants. Post-trial motions were pending.

With permission from Medical Malpractice Verdicts, Settlements & Experts; Lewis Laska, Editor, 901 Church St., Nashville, TN 37203-3411, 1-800-298-6288.


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