Briere v. Greater Hartford Orthopedic Group P.C.
Absent an expert witness to support the plaintiff's previous theory, or court permission to amend to add a new theory, a plaintiff may not prevail on medical malpractice. In 2008, Dr. David Kruger allegedly performed a cervical laminectomy on the plaintiff, Donald Briere. Kruger directed that his patient be turned face down and supervised the attachment of a skull clamp. As Dr. Kruger began to remove bone, a technician advised Dr. Kruger that he had lost signals from the spine. Dr. Kruger attempted to reposition Briere's head. Electrical signals did not return to normal, and Dr. Kruger aborted the operation. The plaintiff's complaint alleged that the doctor did not position his patient and the skull clamp properly, to ensure his patient would not move. The plaintiff's expert opined in a written opinion that accompanied the complaint, "In this case, the head appears to have slipped during the procedure, causing a spinal cord contusion and permanent neurological deficit." At deposition, a medical expert, Dr. James Macon, opined that the defendants properly positioned the plaintiff's head during the surgery and that the plaintiff's injury resulted from the negligent placement of retractors that were used during the surgery. After Dr. Macon's deposition, the plaintiff immediately moved to amend, to allege that the plaintiff suffered a spinal cord contusion as a result of the placement of the retractors. The amended complaint was filed after the statute of limitations expired. It did not relate back to the original complaint, and the court denied the motion to amend. The plaintiff lacked an expert witness to support the plaintiff's theory that the doctor did not position his patient properly, and the court granted the defendants' motions for summary judgment on negligence. As a result of expert opinion that the plaintiff's cervical blood vessels might have been narrow, and the plaintiff might have suffered a spinal infarct, the plaintiff was unable to prove he would have been injured, even in the absence of negligence, as required to prevail on res ipsa loquitur. The court granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment.