WATERTOWN — A state Supreme Court jury in Jefferson County has awarded a former Fort Drum soldier $13.5 million in damages after determining that a misdiagnosis in the emergency department at Samaritan Medical Center later led to the amputation of his right leg above his knee.
The lead attorney representing the former soldier said Thursday he was told by Supreme Court staff that the award is believed to be the largest ever rendered by a jury in Jefferson County in a medical malpractice lawsuit, although that has not been confirmed.
Jeffrey D. Lewis, 50, now of Blackstone, Va., filed a medical malpractice suit in January 2017 claiming that he presented at Samaritan’s emergency department May 27, 2014, complaining of pain in his right lower extremity. According to court documents, he was diagnosed with tendinitis and discharged, when in fact he was suffering from an arterial occlusion, or blood clot.
He later sought treatment at Fort Drum’s Guthrie Clinic and St. Joseph’s Hospital, Syracuse, where his leg was amputated June 30, 2014.
Mr. Lewis’ action named as defendants Samaritan, Dr. Sarah A. Delaney-Rowland and Adam P. Callahan, a certified physician assistant, as well as North Country Emergency Medical Consultants P.C., which employed Dr. Delaney-Rowland and Mr. Callahan and has a contract with Samaritan to provide staff in the emergency department. Mr. Callahan saw and treated Mr. Lewis on May 27, 2014, while Dr. Delaney-Rowland was the supervising physician.
Mr. Lewis claimed, among other things, that the defendants should have treated him for an arterial occlusion, but did not consider this. He contended that had he been properly diagnosed and treated, amputation of his leg would have been avoided.
According to court documents, the defendants argued that Mr. Lewis presented at Samaritan and later at the Fort Drum clinic with a palpable pulse in his leg, negating the need to test for an arterial occlusion. Mr. Lewis countered that, if a pulse examination was conducted, it was never documented.
Following a six-day trial at the Dulles State Office Building, a jury concluded Tuesday that the defendants were negligent in their diagnosis and treatment of Mr. Lewis, who is currently wheelchair-bound and was forced into medical retirement from the Army, suffers from permanent physical and emotional injuries and will require further medical care, according to his attorney, Michael Porter, of Porter Nordby Howe LLP, Syracuse.
“These medical providers failed to obtain a complete history and order appropriate tests that would have led to a timely diagnosis, when Jeff’s leg could have been saved,” Mr. Porter said in a prepared statement.
The jury, which deliberated for less than three hours, awarded Mr. Lewis and his wife, Heather, $3.5 million in economic damages for lost wages and past and future medical expenses, and $10 million in damages for pain and suffering.
“While this jury’s award will not give Jeff his leg back, it will provide some financial stability to his family, enable Jeff to better cope with this permanently debilitating injury, and ensure that he receives the quality medical care he will need for the remainder of his life,” Mr. Porter said.