4 court cases to know involving spine, orthopedic surgeons


From a botched hip replacement to a dispute with a health system, Becker's Spine Review reported on four court cases involving spine and orthopedic surgeons since Sept. 25.

1. Fresno, Calif.-based Community Health System is suing a physician group claiming it withheld "lifesaving" neurosurgical trauma care "in an attempt to secure leverage over" Fresno Community Hospital and Medical Center.

The lawsuit accuses the defendants of attempting to strip Community Medical Centers of its level 1 trauma center status. The lawsuit alleges the short notice hurt the hospital by transferring critical patients out of Fresno and forced it to quickly find replacement neurosurgeons.

2. A civil lawsuit that alleged a NYU Langone orthopedic surgeon set his office manager up for a charge of grand larceny has been thrown out by a Manhattan judge.

John Kennedy, MD, head of the New York City-based system's foot and ankle division of orthopedic surgery, was accused of threatening and harassing Susanne Shafmeister, the surgeon's former office manager whom he began dating more than 10 years before she became operations manager at his private practice, according to court documents.

3. A woman is suing a retired orthopedic surgeon and Cody (Wyo.) Regional Health after contracting a near-fatal, long-term illness after a botched hip replacement surgery.

Onita Gillstrap had surgery performed by Frank Schmidt, MD, in March 2019. During the procedure, an arterial vessel was lacerated, and her bleeding caused her blood pressure to drop to life-threatening levels. Her lawsuit for more than $1 million was filed June 14, 2021, and alleged Dr. Schmidt was negligent in his care. Dr. Schmidt submitted his response denying allegations of negligence two days later.

4. An Illinois appeals court upheld a $1.2 million verdict against a spine surgeon who allegedly botched a spinal fusion procedure.

Plaintiff Chaya Brunk sought care from defendant Stephen Pineda, MD, on Sept. 29, 2010, for back pain and leg pain she said stemmed from an earlier car accident. As treatment, Dr. Pineda performed a spinal fusion procedure with a StaXx XDL device. Court records state that after Ms. Brunk continued to experience pain following the surgery, Dr. Pineda allegedly provided inadequate care when he later removed the screws securing the device but did not remove the device or install new screws.

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