Belleville neurosurgeon on trial in St. Clair County Judge Lloyd Cueto's court

Christina Stueve Apr. 23, 2012, 8:00pm



Opening arguments started Monday in a medical malpractice lawsuit against Belleville neurosurgeon Dr. William Sprich.

Ronda Berkemeier, 55, of Addieville, is suing Sprich for more than $50,000 following a surgery he supervised Nov. 20, 2002 at Memorial Hospital.

The complaint says Sprich "negligently and carelessly failed to use the proper and necessary skill in performing the anterior cervical discectomy and takedown of the previously failed graft with Tutigen bone implantation."

"Today, there's no question, Ronda still has permanent nerve damage. The more pain she's in, the more discomfort she's in," her attorney, Paul Johnson told the jury.

"This waking up, and all the sudden, your shoulder is dead for the rest of your life is a known complication of this kind of surgery, and no one told that to Ronda Berkemeier.

"She could not move her right arm at all after the surgery. There's no muscle function. Those nerves were cut. Every doctor in this case, they all agree.

"At the end of the week, we talk about the preponderance of evidence being medical proof."

Johnson told the jury that Berkemeier was a divorced mother who worked three jobs.

"She is a hard-working woman. She will live with these injuries," Johnson said.

"Because this is a medical-malpractice case, most of the witnesses are doctors," he said.

"We are not saying he's a bad doctor. We are saying he caused irreparable damage to Ronda Berkemeier for the rest of her life."

Berkemeier claims she was injured Jan. 15, 2002 while lifting a 60-pound box at work.

She had undergone neck surgery in 1991 prior to the surgery involved in the case against Sprich.

Defense attorney Jim Neville told the jury what lawyers say is not evidence.

"We lawyers have had this case for many years," Neville said. "We know what the facts are. It is your job to listen to those facts."

"He (Sprich) reviewed everything. From all he could review and determine, the care was appropriate. You can have nerve injuries even with appropriate care. He believes this is a known risk.

"It'll be your duty. We believe you will come to determine the plaintiff has not met their burden of proof.

"We would ask you to keep an open mind until you've heard all the evidence."

St. Clair County Judge Lloyd Cueto, who presides, told the jury the case should last until Friday.

Neville is a partner with Neville, Richards and Wuller in Belleville.

Johnson is a partner with SL Chapman in St. Louis and Alton.

The case is St. Clair County Case Number 03-L-562.

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