On December 12, 2014, a Douglas County, Nebraska jury awarded $305,000 to a Nebraska couple represented by attorneys William Kvas and Richard Dinsmore. The verdict followed a one week trial which the jury heard from conflicting experts on whether hand surgeon, Dr. D. Ichtertz, met the standard of care in his treatment of Brandy Barton.
During the 2010 surgery, Dr. Ichtertz cut Ms. Barton’s ulnar nerve near the elbow while performing an endoscopic cubital tunnel release. To make matters worse, he closed the surgical opening unaware that he had injured his patient. Ms. Barton awoke with great pain and had difficulty initially moving her left hand. It was not until she sought a second opinion from Dr. Francesco Campanile, a Denver hand surgeon, that she learned that something went wrong during the initial surgery.
While Dr. Ichtertz was an experienced hand surgeon, he had only recently become acquainted with the endoscopic procedure performed on Ms. Barton. The evidence showed that Dr. Ichtertz first learned of the procedure during a symposium in San Francisco in September 2009. Within two weeks of attending the seminar, he was performing the procedure on patients.
Dr. Martin Boyer from St. Louis testified that absent abnormal anatomy, that it was below the standard of care to cut the ulnar nerve during the procedure. Dr. Campanile testified on the state of the nerve when he did surgery to repair the damage. Dr. Campanile took interoperative photographs to show of the condition of the nerve and the location of injury during the surgery performed by Dr. Ichtertz.
Dr. Ichtertz’s lawyer spent hours cross examining Ms. Barton on photos from her Facebook page showing her participation in athletic events. Kvas argued that “having a disability does not mean that you have to be disabled.” He continued: “She is a role model to her children of what you can overcome with determination.” Ms. Barton who is the mother of three children did not assert a claim for lost wages.
During the trial Dr. Ichtertz denied any responsibility for the injury and claimed that there was “no proof” that he had cut anything. Dr. Ichtertz is the sole owner of Nebraska Hand and Shoulder Institute which operates four clinics in Nebraska.
Douglas County Judge Gary Randall presided over the trial