Cook County Jury Reporter
On April 1, 2004, James Smola tore his left distal biceps tendon while working as a maintenance mechanic for UPS. He sought treatment from the Defendant orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Sheedy, who recommended surgical reattachment of the tendon. On April 14, 2004, Dr. Sheedy performed the surgery to reattach Mr. Smola’s biceps tendon. During the surgery, Dr. Sheedy observed some unexpected bleeding. Because he could not find the source of the bleeding, Dr. Sheedy called for a vascular surgery consult. The vascular surgeon, Dr. Irene Goldstein, came to the operating room and also observed extensive arterial bleeding. After performing an angiogram, Dr. Goldstein discovered that Mr. Smola’s ulnar artery had been transected. Because Dr. Goldstein was only able to find one end of the transected artery (the distal stump had vasospasmed and retracted), she could not repair the artery and simply tied it off. As a consequence of the vascular injury, Mr. Smola suffered a period of ischemia which led to permanent median nerve damage and complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), formerly known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD). While Mr. Smola’s median nerve injury is likely permanent, his CRPS was treated and has gone into remission, with the possibility of exacerbation in the future. Plaintiff alleged that Dr. Sheedy was negligent in transecting the ulnar artery and failing to protect the arteries during the biceps tendon repair surgery. The defense argued that the ulnar artery had not been transected and, if the artery was transected, then Dr. Goldstein must have cut it. The defense further argued that if Dr. Sheedy did transect the ulnar artery, this was a known risk of the procedure and did not result from any negligence. The case proceeded to trial in November 2010. The jury awarded Mr. Smola in excess of $2 million dollars.