Minneapolis personal injury lawyer Bill Tilton shares how he helped a single mother whose vocal chords were damaged by a surgeon.
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Well, I wanna brag about another case that we’ve had just in the last few years that, again, the amount of the settlement was confidential, but I am so proud I’ve represented this woman.
This is Lee Christiansen. Lee is just a salt-of-the-earth woman. She lived in rural Georgia, raised three kids while she went to nursing school, and came to Minnesota and worked as a nurse in the medical profesion for years. She had a goiter on her throat, and in the process of the goiter removal, the surgeon transected a recurrent laryngeal nerve, in other words, stopped her ability for her vocal cords to work properly.
Conventional wisdom among medical negligence lawyers is that surgery cases are horrible. Surgery cases – if the doctor was negligent, pretty much the only one who knows about it was the doctor. Unless he said, “Whoops, I shouldn’t have done that,” and the nurse records it, who knows what happened during the surgery?
But we took this case because it was such an unusual event and she was such a worthy person. You can’t see it, but what looks like a necklace here is a trach tube. She has a permanent trach tube. In order to breathe, she needs this hole in her throat. In order to talk, she must first plug the hole in her throat. So she is not able to take a shower, she can’t swim, she can’t camp like she used to with her family. She’s subject to all sorts of infections and stuff.
We fought like crazy, and to the credit of the medical profession, a couple of other otolaryngologists, a couple of other ENT surgeons came to the fore on her behalf, and we were able to get a discovery – the headline here, “Did Motion Practice Settle This Case?” We got discovery like nobody ever thought before. We got how fast this surgeon had done this operation and compared that to how fast every other surgeon in his practice did the same operation compared with how fast every other surgeon typically in the country does this operation, and that’s just one example of sort of the esoteric investigation and totally unique discovery we were able to do in this case to get this woman a settlement.
First, they offered her pocket change. “Here’s a couple hundred grand. Go away.” “Sorry, Charlie, this is the kinda mediation we walk away from.” Eventually, on the eve of trial with pending motions of – for all sorts of discovery, admission for evidence at trial, exclusion of the defendant’s evidence, and punitive damages, it settled with the help of Judge Maryn in Ramsey County Court, and so it’s one of the cases I’m most proud of that this woman is now able to survive, to take care of herself, ’cause she could never go back to nursing with this sort of deal. She has her own home in the Highland Park area of St. Paul, and I’m just proud as parks that I was able to help Lee Christiansen.