In a two-week trial before Judge Brian C. Yep, Deane and Baraff successfully defended Emergency Medicine nurse practitioner against Plaintiff alleging permanent injury to her left hand in a slip and fall/hand laceration injury sustained on the job. Plaintiff, a Medi-Cal recipient, alleged that delay in being treated by a hand specialist caused further damage to her left hand ulnar and median nerves. On Deane’s cross examination of Plaintiff, she was forced to concede that she had full grip strength, was able to make a fist and carry up to 15 pounds in her left hand. Further, she admitted that she herself knew it was important to follow the nurse practitioner’s instructions to see her primary care physician urgently and that the only way for her to see a hand specialist was to get a referral through her primary care physician. She and experts admitted, that due to the nature of Medi-Cal, even after successful evaluation by a specialist, it would take weeks to obtain approval for surgery, and several additional weeks thereafter to secure a surgery appointment. Deane was also able to get the Plaintiff to admit that she had lied to previous treating physicians and had lied on the stand on direct examination.
On standard of care, Defense experts testified that Plaintiff’s 5 cm laceration in the zone 3-4 region of the hand, was in the “no-go zone and that based on this information, the nurse practitioner could make the “doorway diagnosis” that Plaintiff needed to see a hand specialist. The standard of care did not require the NP to do a detailed examination of Plaintiff’s hand, nor would a hand surgeon want that as it could cause more harm to the structures in the hand. On causation, Defense experts testified that whether the surgical repair was done on in the first few days after the fall, or day 50, any alleged delay in surgery would not have a long term effect on Plaintiff’s overall outcome. Both Plaintiff and Defense experts opined that based on Plaintiff’s representation that she was able to utilize her left hand and demonstration to the jury at trial, that they would not perform any further surgery as she had reached maximum optimal recovery.