A Delaware County jury late Friday brought in the verdict for Dana Asbury, a 39-year-old mother of three, and against two physicians, Dr. Joel Lebed, who was associated with Planned Parenthood of Philadelphia, and Dr. Richard Kanoff, a neurosurgeon with Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital in Darby.
The verdict was the outcome of two separate litigations that were joined for trial before Common Pleas Court Judge Charles Burr and followed nine days of testimony.
“Obviously we’re pleased that the jury felt she had a meritorious case,” said attorney Garland D. Cherry Jr., who along with co-counsel Fincourt B. Shelton, represented the plaintiff.
Cherry said Asbury’s problems began when she went to Planned Parenthood in Philadelphia in February 2003 to have the contraceptive implant rods removed from her arm. The rods released hormones into her blood stream to prevent pregnancy.
Cherry said his client asked to have Dr. Janet Wilson handle the removal of the matchstick-sized rods. Instead she was treated by Dr. Lebed, who was described in legal papers as “inexperienced” to handle the medical procedure.
“(Dr. Lebed) gave up after a lot of pain and tears,” said Cherry.
Dr. Wilson, who was named in the litigation but found not to be negligent by the jury, eventually removed all of the rods. The suit charged that Lebed had made several attempts, but was unsuccessful, and that Asbury was in “severe pain” from the beginning to the end of the procedure.
Following that surgery, Cherry said his client became debilitated because of the ensuing horrific pain that began in her arm and progressively worsened until it affected the whole left side of her body. He said she was diagnosed with complex regional pain syndrome – which involves a malfunction to the nervous system causing extreme sensitivity and chronic pain.
He said because of the ensuing problems, she began receiving nerve blocks in her cervical and lumbar spine on a regular basis to alleviate the RSD, and began experiencing episodes when her balance became unsteady.
He said in October 2004 she was admitted to Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital under the care of Dr. Kanoff, a neurosurgeon. The suit charged that Kanoff negligently concluded that the plaintiff’s disorientation and stumbling were the result of instability in her cervical spine that required an urgent cervical laminectomy.
“The fusion itself was a successful fusion,” said Cherry. “The hardware was correct and everything held. The only problem was she didn’t need it and it worsened her condition.”
He said because of her ensuing medical problems, Asbury, who had been employed as an administrative assistant for a temporary service, was unable to work and has been heavily medicated to alleviate her suffering.
Attorney George Knoell in legal papers said Kanoff denied liability and maintained that the surgery was to correct a dangerous instability in plaintiff’s cervical spine and not to cure her pain.
Attorney Brian E. Appel, who represented Wilson and Lebed, denied any negligence and in legal papers asserted that Asbury never pursued any followup treatment as had been suggested.
The jury awarded $1,094,805 to Asbury for past and future loss of earning capacity. More than $1.3 million was for future medical care and $200,000 covered pain and suffering. Another $125,000 was awarded to her husband, Ervin, for loss of consortium.
The jury determined Lebed was 60 percent liable for the damages and Kanoff 40 percent.