Belleville neurosurgeon cleared by St. Clair County jury

Ann Knef Oct. 2, 2008, 11:00am

A St. Clair County jury ruled Sept. 25 for Belleville neurosurgeon Dr. Robert Schultz over a man who alleged his blindness was the result of an invasive procedure involving water-based contrast dye.

"It was a proper verdict," said defense attorney James Mendillo of Belleville.

Curtis Eubanks of Franklin County claimed that had Schultz waited for results of two other non-invasive tests, it would not have been necessary for him to perform a cervical myelogram on June 18, 2002.

In a cervical myelogram, injected contrast dye outlines the cervical cord and nerve roots. It can serve to detect pathology of the spinal cord, including the location of a spinal cord injury, cysts, and tumors.

Eubanks sued Schultz, along with Neurological Services of Belleville and Memorial Hospital, in 2005.

In July, St. Clair County Circuit Judge Michael O'Malley granted Memorial Hospital's motion for summary judgment. The hospital argued that Eubanks signed a form acknowledging that Memorial Hospital was not legally responsible for independent treatment decisions of its independent practitioners.

At the end of the trial, Mendillo moved for a directed verdict. He argued that evidence was "uncontradicted" that Schultz did not order Eubanks' myelogram.

"That in addition thereto, the plaintiff has failed to present sufficient evidence to support his position that any negligent act committed, the ordering of the myelogram, did in fact cause plaintiff's visual problems.

"Plaintiff's expert has failed to establish any legitimate base that the plaintiff's visual problems, to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, might have been caused by the performance of said myelogram."

In a phone interview, Mendillo said there are no reported cases anywhere linking water-based contrast dye with vision "issues." He said that "in the old days" when dyes were oil-based, there were reported problems.

Eubanks, who was represented by Bryan A. Drew of Drew & Drew in Benton, originally filed suit against the same defendants on Jun 17, 2004, which was voluntarily dismissed on Sept. 17, 2004, and then re-filed on May 16, 2005.

Mendillo said the case has "been a concern" for his client for a long time.

"We're very pleased with how it came out," Mendillo said.

Schultz has been a neurosurgeon in Belleville since 1977. He remained while many other physician specialists left the Metro-East earlier in the decade due to rising costs of malpractice insurance.

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