Madison - St. Clair Record

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Madison County jury reaches defense verdict in medical malpractice suit

By Heather Isringhausen Gvillo | Oct 3, 2017

A Madison County jury reached a defense verdict in favor of Midwest Radiological Associates and one of its physicians in a medical malpractice suit alleging a doctor failed to recognize signs of lumbar infection, delaying emergency surgery.

The jury deliberated just over an hour and a half before reaching its verdict on Sept. 26 in Circuit Judge Andreas Matoesian’s courtroom. The trial began Sept. 18.

Defendants Midwest Radiological Associates and Dr. Theodore VanderVelde were represented at trial by Jeffrey Glass and Jason Winslow of Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP in Belleville.

Plaintiff Rita Ford was represented at trial by Brad Lakin and Robert Schmieder of SL Chapman LLC in St. Louis.

Ford filed her complaint May 8, 2015, alleging she woke up at home on Oct. 25, 2013, with “incapacitating low back pain and discomfort.” She claimed she couldn’t walk due to weakness and pain.

Ford claimed she experienced a “numbness and tingling sensation” that stretched from her feet to her lower back.

An ambulance took the plaintiff to Alton Memorial Hospital, where family members allegedly asked emergency room personnel to perform a lumbar MRI. However, the suit stated that the family was allegedly told the plaintiff’s own doctor would have to order an MRI.

Three days later, Ford claimed she met with Dr. Guy Aton at his practice and was still experiencing the same symptoms.

Aton allegedly prescribed pain medication but ordered no neurosurgical consultation. He did, however, order an MRI, the suit stated.

The next day, Ford’s MRI was taken and Vander Velde allegedly read and interpreted the scan. In his report, “he did not include any reference to any signs or indications of possible infections processes then ongoing and did not recommend an immediate neurosurgical consult or immediate follow-up.”

Ford’s MRI was forwarded back to Aton by Vander Velde. Ford alleged her family contacted Aton to inform him that her pain medication was not working. He allegedly prescribed her higher dosages but still didn’t order a consult, the complaint stated.

Then on Nov. 25, Ford claimed she went to a neurosurgeon at St. Luke’s Hospital, who reviewed the MRI. The next day, the neurosurgeon allegedly performed emergency lumbar surgery to repair what was learned to be an epidural abscess.

Ford recovered for a week at St. Luke’s, then went through two rehabilitation facilities until she was cleared for release on Feb. 19, 2014, the suit stated.

Ford filed a first amended complaint on Sept. 1, 2016.

The defendants answered the amended complaint on the first day of trial, denying liability.

The defendants filed a motion for directed verdict at the close of the plaintiff’s case on Sept. 21.

They argued that the plaintiff failed to establish through competent evidence that Vander Velde failed to meet the standard of care in Ford’s treatment.

The defendants argued that the plaintiff failed to produce expert testimony establishing that VanderVelde’s alleged negligence was a proximate cause of Ford’s injury.

They also argued that Midwest Radiological Associates was named a defendant based on an agency theory and that its liability is “co-extensive” with VanderVelde’s alleged liability.

“As a result, Plaintiff has failed to present sufficient testimony upon which to make a submissible case under law,” the motion stated.

Matoesian denied the request.

The defendants filed a second motion for directed verdict at the close of all evidence on Sept. 26 before jurors returned a defense verdict.

Aton and BJC Medical Group of Illinois were also named defendants in the original lawsuit, but were dismissed June 28, 2016.

Madison County Circuit Court case number 15-L-582

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Organizations in this Story

Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP Madison County Circuit Court