And The Defense Wins

Richard Hall and Kevin Scanlan of Duke Scanlan Hall in Boise, Idaho, received a defense verdict in the defense of a Pocatello, Idaho, neurosurgeon. The case was tried to a jury in Pocatello before the Honorable Stephen Dunn. Post-trial motions were filed but the plaintiff agreed to withdraw them and waive appeal in return for an agreement to forego the recovery of costs.
The plaintiffs alleged brain damage to the patient (an Iraqi veteran) from being slapped by the neurosurgeon. The plaintiffs contended that the patient was slapped out of anger rather than as a part of a neurological evaluation to assess the patient’s mental status following brain surgery, as asserted by the defendant. On the evening following surgery for a suspected cerebral spinal fluid leak, the patient became uncontrollable and unable to follow his nurse’s treatment plan. The doctor was called by the nurse to assess the patient and decided, as he had been trained, to administer a slap as part of his neurological assessment. After the slap, the patient immediately became oriented and cooperative. Unfortunately, the patient’s wife observed the slap and was extremely shocked and upset. She could not understand how the doctor could slap the patient on the same day he performed brain surgery on him. The doctor apologized and the wife took that to mean that he was admitting guilt.
The judge decided that the case was limited to the issue of whether the slap was a departure from the standard of care; the defendant neurosurgeon admitted that if he struck the patient with intent to injure or out of anger that it would be a violation of the standard of care. After three weeks of trial, the jury found that the doctor had not struck the patient with intent to injure or in anger and that he did not depart from the standard of care.

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