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Anesthesia Errors and Negligence

We’re trial lawyers. Our core competency – above everything else – is trying cases to juries. And we specialize in beating giants.

What is anesthesia?

Anesthesia is a combination of medicine that puts you in a sleeplike state before a procedure, where your brain doesn’t respond to pain signals or reflexes. Anesthesia can take the form of an intravenous drug or can be inhaled, and is administered by a specialist called an anesthesiologist, often with the help of a registered nurse anesthetist.

There are three main types of anesthesia:

  • General anesthesia renders you completely unconscious. It’s used for longer procedures.
  • Regional anesthesia switches off the feeling from a specific part or region of the body, such as during a lower limb surgery.
  • Local anesthesia is used to numb a small area, often accompanied with light sedation.

Anesthesia is quite safe for most people—only about 1 in every 100,000 to 200,000 patients die from complications involving anesthesia—and complications are usually more to do with the underlying procedure that’s happening, rather than anesthesia itself.

Before your procedure 

Your doctors and caregivers have a responsibility to ask the right questions and consider all the angles before putting you under. They should get a clear picture of your health history, especially past complications with or allergies to anesthesia. They should also consider the various factors that make using anesthesia more risky, including if you are older, if your other medications clash with anesthesia, as well as if you smoke, do drugs, have heart/kidney/lung conditions, have diabetes, or are overweight. Once they get a good picture of your health, they should give you clear information on your options and how to proceed. For example, anesthesia carries extra risk for the elderly, so you should understand exactly what you’re being asked to do.

Next, once anesthesia has been greenlit, your doctors need to give you the right information to help your body prepare. That can include avoiding certain medication like aspirin, fasting, switching diabetes medicines, and avoiding certain herbal remedies. These steps help avoid ugly complications.

There are also situations, such as C-sections and emergency surgeries, where you won’t have time to talk things over, and it’s up to your providers to take these factors into consideration and treat you safely in the heat of the moment.

Finally, it’s up to your doctors to take all this information and preparation and decide on the right dose, the right time to use it, and deliver it correctly. Failure to do so might leave you dangerously sedated for too long, or lacking the protection you need.

During your procedure

Once things are underway, doctors must carefully monitor your vital signs like blood, oxygen, and fluids to make sure things are going smoothly, and to avoid traumatic complications such as intraoperative awareness, a rare situation where a patient is slightly conscious and might be able to see, hear, or even feel pain when they aren’t supposed to. If things go wrong, it’s up to doctors to then make the right calls and potentially provide additional medications, fluids, and even blood transfusions.

After your procedure

To conclude, your doctors must then safely reverse the anesthesia, bring you back to full consciousness, and monitor for side-effects such as nausea, vomiting, and a sore throat from an inserted oxygen tube.

Anesthesia, when given to you incorrectly, can cause a variety of harms. If poorly inserted, oxygen tubes that maintain your air supply can damage the trachea, cause muscle spasms in the larynx or bronchial tubes, and damage the mouth and voice box.

If you’re given too much local anesthesia, that can cause system toxicity, which can impact breathing, the heartbeat, and blood pressure.

Regional anesthesia is often injected near a bundle of nerves on the spine or chest, and mistakes can cause nerve damage, weakness, soreness, and lung problems or infection.

General anesthesia errors, meanwhile, can cause harms such as food or liquid getting stuck in the lungs or trachea if the patient hasn’t been properly prepared. If doctors fail to see past patient or family history involving similar problems or strokes, patients can experience malignant hyperthermia, a complication where anesthesia provokes a high fever. If you have sleep apnea, and doctors fail to monitor you, your throat can close during surgery, making it harder for you to regain consciousness and breathe. Other errors, such as a failure to monitor blood flow, can cause strokes, permanent brain damage, or death while under anesthesia. Older people, or those with Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s, might risk long term memory problems and cognitive dysfunction if using anesthesia, so doctors should factor that in accordingly.

Under Minnesota law, you usually have 4 years to bring a malpractice case against your doctor or hospital.

Malpractice robs you of your peace of mind, and a medical malpractice suit can help take back some of what you’ve lost. There are no caps on damages in Minnesota, and you are eligible to recover resources which help you meet a number of challenges, including:

  • Medical bills and costs
  • Lost income
  • Past bodily and mental harm, including:
    • Pain
    • Disability
    • Disfigurement
    • Embarrassment
    • Emotional distress
  • Future bodily and mental harm, including:
    • Pain
    • Disability
    • Disfigurement
    • Embarrassment
    • Emotional distress

Minnesota medical malpractice lawyers help people with anesthesia error complications. 

It can be confusing, painful, and time-consuming to sort out what went wrong, but you don’t have to do it alone. If you schedule a free consultation with us, we can eventually use our network of lawyers and medical experts to review your records and help get you the relief you need, including compensation for medical bills, future treatment, lost income, and pain and suffering. And we’ll recommend other trusted firms if you want a second opinion.

You’ve already been let down once, which is why we operate under a contingency fee structure for maximum fairness: we only receive payment if we help you get what you deserve, either a settlement or victory at trial.

Get in touch with us here if you’re ready to have allies who understand.

THE MADIA LAW WAY

We have a process that works in getting exceptional results for our clients. 

We are trial lawyers who prepare every case for trial from Day 1. Investigation and legal research are the first things we do, and we spend a lot of time on them. Because we haven’t filed the case yet, we have complete control – the defendant has no say and we want to use this time wisely.  We interview witnesses that can help us prove the case.  We’ll ask you for all relevant documents in your possession and review those carefully as well.  We also will spend some time conducting legal research about unique issues in the case.  We pull the jury instructions that the judge will ultimately charge the jury with after closing arguments at trial. 

Our next step is typically to send a demand letter to the defendant. In the letter, we thoroughly lay out: the facts surrounding the defendant’s misconduct; the applicable law (including statutory and case citations) that make clear that the defendant broke the law; an analysis of your damages and the defendant’s monetary exposure; a demand for a monetary amount to settle the claim; and an instruction to preserve all relevant evidence, including electronic evidence. The point of this letter is to give the defendant a chance to do the right thing and pay a fair amount before litigation, and to give the defendant an opportunity to present any defenses or evidence it wants us to consider before moving forward.  Sometimes we skip the demand letter if there are strategic reasons to move straight to filing, but we typically give defendants a chance to do the right thing.

If early negotiations fail, great – we file a Complaint and serve the defendant with it. A Complaint is a legal document that states the facts of what happened and alleges how the defendant broke the law. It formally starts the lawsuit.  Many lawyers draft complaints in a general and relatively vague way, just to get it done and filed – because that’s all that’s really required.  We take a different view. We view the Complaint as our first chance to tell your story to the judge, and we take it seriously. So we draft detailed complaints and include legal citations to statutory and judicial authority on unique points.  Sometimes we’ll include a number of exhibits, diagrams, or other demonstrative aids to help the Court understand our claims.  A secondary benefit of this approach is that defense lawyers reading the Complaint can become educated on the problems of their case and the state of the law – sometimes this leads them to reach out to us shortly after service of the Complaint to re-initiate settlement negotiations.  Of course, by that time, the price for settlement has gone up.

Some lawyers view written discovery as a necessary evil – something to get done and out of the way before depositions.  Not us.  Written discovery is a gift and an opportunity.  We spend a great deal of time crafting requests for documents and interrogatories (questions for the defendant to answer in writing) that are specific, detailed, and tailored to get what we need to prove our case.  Many lawyers – even great ones – think written discovery is a waste of time because defense lawyers typically answer them on behalf of their clients and can try to stonewall with legalese and objections.  We view this as a wonderful opportunity.  In our experience, most defense lawyers can’t help themselves when answering discovery: they over-state their defenses and make assertions that their clients will not be able to support in testimony. So we get to commit the defendant to defenses that they can’t back up, leading to contradictions, confusion, and chaos in their depositions later on.  We also use Requests for Admission – which many lawyers don’t.  The Federal Rules and Minnesota Rules of Civil Procedure allow us to ask defendants to “admit” certain facts.  We send them RFAs that are very difficult for them to deny.  Of course, they do it anyway, but that sets them up later for cost and fee-shifting, which the Rules mandate for defendants that deny RFAs that are later proven true.  And usually, we can get the defendants’ own witnesses to admit facts that their defense lawyers denied in RFA.  That’s a great situation that leads to more chaos and confusion on the defense side.

One last point on written discovery – we send multiple waves of it throughout discovery.  We typically send 3 or 4 sets of written discovery requests to defendants throughout discovery.  This compounds the problems for them, because the defense lawyers continue to overstate their defenses, but now run into contradictions from not just the defendant witnesses’ deposition testimony, but also their own previous discovery responses.  This makes for a great record that we can present to the judge at dispositive motions, and use for impeachment at trial.

This is our chance to question relevant witnesses, on the record with a court reporter (we typically videotape important depositions as well). We get to confront the defense witnesses with all of the evidence we’ve developed through written discovery and document production. By this time, the defendant put its witnesses in an impossible position through its written defenses, which are often untrue and indefensible.  So the witness has to either lie to support the defense, or admit it’s not true.  That’s a dilemma that works for our clients either way, no matter which option the witness takes.  We use depositions to expose contradictions, create a record for dispositive motions, lock witnesses into their stories so that we can impeach them later at trial, and sometimes, to show defense lawyers how hopeless their case is.  We often calls from defense counsel shortly after depositions of their clients, seeking to re-start settlement negotiations.

The defendant will usually make a motion for summary judgment after discovery, asking the Court to throw out the case without having a jury trial. Because we’ve hit discovery so hard – both through written discovery and depositions – this is a tough motion for defense counsel to write in our cases.  We draft our response for the Court and now get to bring everything together: the admissions, contradictions, nonsense, and obvious fact disputes that we’ve uncovered through discovery.  We tell a compelling story that wraps everything together for the Court and makes clear that the defense motion has to be denied, and the defendant needs to face a jury for its conduct.

Sometimes, we’ll even make an affirmative motion for summary judgment, asking the Court to grant judgment in favor of our client without a trial. These motions are generally rare for plaintiffs to make, because the defendant can usually point to some fact dispute on its intent or some other factor that necessitates a trial. But we make affirmative summary judgment motions significantly more than is typical for plaintiffs, and that’s because the work we put in during discovery helps build a fantastic record to do so.

After the Court denies the defense motion for summary judgment, the defendant has only 2 options: 1) do the right thing and pay you a fair amount to our client to settle your claim (usually much, much more at this point than the defendant could have paid at the beginning of the case to settle); or 2) face a jury for its conduct and risk an enormous verdict. This is the dilemma that we have been creating and forcing the defendant into for the entire case. We’ll engage in settlement negotiations at this point from a position of extreme strength, mainly because most defendants are (rightly) terrified of facing a jury to defend their conduct.

This is, candidly, our favorite part of the case – why we went to law school: to hold the powerful accountable before juries.  We prepare heavily for trial, including: detailed witness preparation, focus groups, and mock trials.  At this point, the potential outcomes and consequences for the defendant are much more severe than if it simply did the right thing at the beginning of the case and paid a fair amount to compensate our client for its misconduct.  As we advocate to the jury for our client, we’re also mindful of protecting the record so that defendants will be unsuccessful in attacking the verdict in post-trial motions or appeal.

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