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Author Archives: Todd Hendrickson

Congressman John Murtha of Pennsylvania died last week at Bethesda Naval Hospital as a result of complications following gallbladder surgery. While it is not possible to comment on the medical care rendered to Congressman Murtha without a thorough review of his medical records, it can be said that “complications” from gallbladder surgery can often be the result of medical negligence.In order to understand what may have happened to Congressman Murtha, you have to understand the anatomy of the gallbladder. The gallbladder is an organ that secrets bile into biliary system to aid in breakdown of food. The gallbladder is a sac that attaches to a structure called the cystic duct. The most common complication associated with gallbladder surgery are cutting the wrong structure and severing the biliary tree. Nearly as common is perforating one of the surrounding structures, usually the small intestine, although perforations to the colon are also common. Less common are perforations of the bladder.In Congressman Murtha’s case, it appears that there was a perforation of his small intestine. Can this happen in the absence of negligence? Absolutely. Sometimes a perforation can occur when the surgeon is taking down scar tissue, called adhesions. However, such perforation must be recognized and addressed at the time of surgery. Failing to find and repair perforations during surgery can be negligence or medical malpractice.Often, the real case for malpractice is when the surgeon fails to recognize that a perforation has occurred. In the event of a peroration during surgery, particularly of the small intestine and colon, the result is usually an infection or sepsis. The most common symptoms or complaints following a perforation are severe abdominal pain, fever, elevated white blood count, and x-rays showing air accumulations in the abdomen. If any or all of these are present, the doctor should be considering whether a perforation has occurred. In that case, exploratory surgery is almost always indicated.Delays in treating perforations can lead to massive infections and death. Those that survive these infections can be left with damage to their bowels and bladder and ongoing abdominal pain.

The Illinois Supreme Court has declared legislation imposing a limit, or “cap,” on the amount that a jury can award to the victims of medical malpractice is unconstitutional. In Lebron v Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, the Court held that “statutory caps violate the separation of powers clause of the Illinois Constitution and declared the entire Act invalid.”The case represents a major victory for civil justice. By declaring that a legislature cannot substitute its judgment for that of a jury of citizens, the Illinois Supreme Court has joined a growing number of state supreme courts who have deemed such legislation unconstitutional, or otherwise invalidated such acts.In order to understand what this decision means, it is important to understand what so-called “tort reform” acts “cap.” These acts place a limit, or cap, on what a jury can award in any case for non-monetary damages. These are damages for loss of a normal life, pain and suffering. By placing a uniform limit on these damages, legislatures have, in effect, said that those who are harmed the most should not receive compensation for their losses. The Lebron case is a perfect example:The Lebrons filed suit for injuries their child received during delivery, including severe brain injury, cerebral palsy and cognitive mental impairment. Because of the negligence of the doctor and nurses involved, Abigaile Lebron will never develop normally and will be fed by tube for the rest of her life. And Abigaile is exactly the type of victim of medical malpractice who deserves compensation and, due to tort reform, is exactly the type of patient who is most affected by caps. Because caps act to limit only non-monetary damages, it is the young, the old and those who have low earnings who are most affected by caps. If a 50 year old banker making $250,000 a year is left in the same condition as a 1 year old, that 50 year old banker will be able to show earnings losses in the millions of dollars, in addition to past and future medical bills. But, if the same thing happens to an infant, that infant has no earning history, so it is difficult or impossible to establish those lost earnings. Thus, with caps in place, hospitals and doctors consistently devalue loss of life and injury to the very young and the very old.The Illinois Supreme Court made the right, and just, decision.

“Stacking”-sounds like something you do with firewood or kid’s blocks. But in personal injury and automobile accident cases, it may mean more money available for the injured victim. Stacking” refers to multiplying the available insurance coverage by the number of insurance policies. Under Missouri law, uninsured motorist coverage has “stacked” for many years. An example will help to make this clear(er):If you are injured in an accident with an uninsured motorist, and you have auto insurance in Missouri, by law you have at least $25,000 in uninsured motorist coverage. However, if your injuries are severe, $25,000 doesn’t go far. But, if you have more than one policy, the coverage stacks. For example, if you have 3 policies, you would have at least $75,000 in uninsured motorist coverage.While this has been the law in Missouri for years, liability policies have not stacked. Liability coverage is that coverage which is purchased to cover injuries caused by a driver. Again, Missouri law requires that every driver carry at least $25,000 in coverage. In a decision handed down by the Missouri Supreme Court last week, the Court has declared for the first time that such coverage stacks, at least to the amount of the statutory minimum coverage. Again, an example may make this clearer:If you are injured by a driver who has liability insurance, the maximum the insurance company will be required to pay (if your damages support such an amount) is the sum of the policy limit on the involved vehicle, plus the minimum $25,000 coverage existing on each other insured vehicle. So, if the vehicle involved in the collision has a policy limit of $50,000 per accident, but has 2 other vehicles insured, then you may be able to collect up to $100,000 from that insurer ($50,000 + $25,000 + $25,000).This is a major change in Missouri law that clearly benefits victims of motor vehicle crashes. If you or a family member has been injured in an auto crash, please call The Law Offices of Todd N. Hendrickson for a free consultation at 314-721-8833.

After your attorney has filed a lawsuit for you, you’ll undoubtedly hear the term “discovery.” What is “discovery?”Discovery is the phase of the litigation before trial. This is when both sides try to “discover” everything they need to about the other side’s case–how the negligence occurred, how the plaintiff was injured, the nature and extent of the injuries, extent of wage loss, defenses etc. Whether your case is a simple personal injury suit involving an auto accident, or a more complex case involving medical malpractice or product liability, the basic process is similar, involving the same steps.Usually, the first thing that will occur is that the attorneys for all parties will exchange written discovery.Written discovery will usually consist of one or more of all the following:Interrogatories: These are written questions that you and your attorney will answer together. Your attorney will usually send these questions to you or have you come into the office to review them. These questions are answered under oath and under penalty of perjury. Usually, but no always, these questions will ask about basic information such as identity of your medical care providers, amounts of your bills, whether you’ve given any statements, etc.Requests for Documents: Fairly self explanatory. These are requests for your to produce documents such as medical records, tax returns and pay stubs to prove lost income, medical authorizations to allow the defense to gather their own copies of your medical records, and things like photos and Xrays.Requests to Admit: These are written statements which a party must admit or deny. If the party admits the statement, then the requesting party is relieved of having to prove this statement at trial and the answer can merely be submitted to the jury. Requests to admit are often used to narrow the issues in a case and establish basic facts.Usually the next stage of discovery involves depositions. A deposition is a question and answer interview conducted by the other party’s lawyer. Testimony is taken and recorded by a court reported and transcribed into a booklet for later use. Depending on your jurisdiction, this testimony may be directly admissible in court. A deposition may be the only testimony you give in a case and it is important that you are properly prepared to answer the type of questions that will likely be asked.In many cases, the attorney’s will produce expert witnesses to give testimony on certain aspects of your case. The testimony of a treating doctor as to how your injury happened and the type of medical care you received to treat it is one type of expert testimony. In some cases, you may have expert testimony on things such as accident reconstruction or product defects. In a medical malpractice case doctors or other health care providers will give testimony as to how the defendant was negligent.These are the basic steps of the discovery process.If you are in need of an attorney for a personal injury, auto accident, medical malpractice, wrongful death or product liability case, please call Todd N. Hendrickson for a free consultation.

The Department of Transportation has initiated, effective today, a ban on texting while driving for interstate truck and bus drivers.  If caught, these drivers will face significant fines and penalties.Texting while driving is responsible for numerous accidents. Some studies indicate it is as dangerous as driving while intoxicated. Studies indicate that drivers who text while driving are twenty times more likely to get into an accident than those who are not texting.If you have been in an accident with a truck or an accident in which you know or suspect that the other driver was using his or her cell phone or texting while driving, you should contact an attorney to protect your rights. Call or e-mail the Law Offices of Todd N. Hendrickson to discuss your case. As always, our initial consultation is free and there is no fee unless you recover.

A recent article on CNN Health discusses “How to avoid falling victim to a hospital’s mistakes.” The article contains good advice for avoiding identification mistakes such as mixing you up with another patient or operating or performing procedures on the wrong side or wrong body part.Their advice?1. Clearly identify yourself, using your full name and your date of birth and state the reason you are there, such as “I am here for gollbladder surgery”.2. Demand that they check your ID bracelet. Why? Because nurses, techs and doctors are supposed to confirm your identity in two ways–usually verbally and by the ID bracelet.3. Demand that they confirm in your chart what they are doing.4. If having surgery, demand that the surgeon mark up your surgical site before you are anesthetized. Better yet. My advice? Do it yourself! If you are having surgery on your right knee, mark “NOT THIS KNEE” on your left knee. Surgery on the wrong side is not uncommon. It happens so regularly that Medicaid/Medicare has declared that they will no longer pay for such mistakes.5. Be impolite. If you suspect that something is wrong, don’t simply assume that the nurse or doctor is right. Ask questions, demand answers.Your best defense against medical malpractice? Ask questions. Demand answers. Write down what is going on and what is said. If you get conflicting information or orders, demand an explanation. Nurses refer to people who do this as “scribblers.” But if you ask nurses and doctors what they do when their spouse, child, or parent is int he hospital and they will all tell you that they become “scribblers”. You’d much rather be known as a scribbler than need the services of an attorney.But … if you do, please call or contact me.Todd N. Hendrickson, P.C.

We’ve all heard the talking heads and seen the news stories: “There are too many frivolous lawsuits,” “doctors are fleeing because of malpractice suits,” and “malpractice claims have driven up health care costs.” The fact is, these are simple myths touted by the insurance industry to frighten us so that we help them to remain as the most profitable industry in the country.A new paper by the American Association for Justice debunks these myths.For example:Myth: Malpractice claims drive up health care costs.Truth: The total cost of paying and defending malpractice claims is less than 1% of the cost of health care–in fact, .3%.Myth: Doctors are fleeing/Truth: According to the AMA the number of doctors is continually increasing, not decreasing.Myth: Tort reform will lower doctor’s insurance premiums.TruthL Tort reform has never resulted in lower premiums for doctors. What it has resulted in is increasingly larger profits for insurance companies.Know the truth about the malpractice myths.

The St. Louis Post Dispatch reported on June 11th that Dr. Alexander Kalk, a family practice physician from Creve Coeur, has closed his practice, thrown confidential patient medical records in the trash and has left Missouri. Dr. Kalk was facing licensing discipline from the Missouri Board of Healing Arts. He may also be facing criminal charges regarding his handling of patient medical records.I am familiar with Dr. Kalk, have previously prosecuted a medical malpractice case against him when he was working as a staff physician at a St. Anthony’s walk in clinic. These allegations of bizarre behavior, including living in his medical office, have existed for some years.If you or a family member has been injured as a result of the negligence of Dr. Kalk, you may have a cause of action, not only against him, but quite possibly any hospital that granted him privileges. He was most recently on staff at Missouri Baptist Medical Center. Hospitals generally have a duty to patients to only grant privileges to physicians who are qualified and properly trained. Please contact The Law Office of Todd N. Hendrickson to discuss your case.

The New York Times has reported that Medtronic, a prominent manufacturer of medical devices and products, such as infusers, defibrillators and other items, has paid $788,000 to U.S. Army doctor, Timothy R. Kuklo, who was found to have faked results of a study published in a British medical journal.Dr. Kuklo is now on staff as an assistant medical professor at Washington University, here in St. Louis. Dr. Kuklo is an orthopedic surgeon specializing in adult and pediatric spine surgery.If these allegations prove true, it is shocking that Washington University would employ such a physician to train future generations of orthopedic surgeons. It would also call into question all Medtronics studies. These studies are submitted to the FDA to obtain approval of medical devices and products, and if physicians are being paid what seems to amount to bribes, then the truthfulness of their study results are certainly called into question.If you have any questions or concerns regarding Medtronic products, or care rendered by Dr. Kuklo, please do not hesitate to call The Law Offices of Todd N. Hendrickson. I have successfully prosecuted cases against medical devices manufacturers, hospitals and physicians throughout Missouri and Illinois and I have particular experience in handling orthopedic cases, including hip and knee replacements.

Consumers Union, a national non-profit organization, has just released a new report that follows a landmark report of 10 years ago. Unfortunately, the new report isn’t good news.In To Err is Human – To Delay is Deadly, the group reports that more than 99,000 people die each year in the United States from medical errors. This is up from the figure of 98,000 deaths per year reported by the Institute of Medicine in 1999. In the the intervening 10 years, we have made no progress.What are some of the reasons for this disturbing lack of improvement? Consumer Union reports that, among many reasons, few hospitals have adopted well-known systems to prevent medication errors and that the FDA rarely intervenes. Medicine, as an industry has failed to adopt transparent systems for reporting errors. The medical industry has failed to raise standards for competency of doctors, nurses and other health care professionals.Consumers Union makes this disturbing analogy: 99,000 deaths per year is equivalent to a jumbo jet full of passengers crashing and killing everyone on board every other day. In no other industry would Americans allow these kinds of errors to continue to occur.I struggle every day to bring accountability to those who have injured or killed patients. If you or a family member are a victim of medical negligence, contact me at stlpersonalinjury.com.