New York hospital cleared of medical malpractice in surgery lawsuit

A medical malpractice lawsuit that accused St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center in Manhattan of causing nerve damage in a man’s shoulder during surgery was tossed out of court due to lack of evidence.

George Ongley claimed the hospital’s doctors were responsible for his brachial plexopathy, commonly known as upper shoulder nerve damage. The plaintiff alleged the injury occurred because surgeons improperly positioned his arm during an abdominal aortic repair procedure he underwent at the age of 85.

A New York federal judge ruled there was no “reasonable degree of medical certainty” that the doctors’ negligence caused the injury. She said the opinion of Ongley’s medical expert on what caused the shoulder injury was speculative. The medical expert had testified that several factors may have resulted in the nerve damage.

The judge also rejected the plaintiff’s alternate claim that he suffered the injury due to an improper transfer from the operating table to a gurney. She cited the testimony of one of the doctors, who said four individuals and a slide apparatus were used to move Ongley.

Medical experts from both sides agreed the transfer method matched the expected standard of care. The judge decided the plaintiff could not provide any evidence of doctors deviating from the standard of care at any time during his surgery. For the medical malpractice lawsuit to have merit, Ongley would have to prove that surgeons breached their standard of care, and the breach directly caused his injury.

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