Monday, April 6, 2020

A jury favored a former UNLV football player in early September 2015, stating a Las Vegas surgeon ended the athlete’s career with a spinal surgery that failed to repair a damaged disc.

The disc is the cushioning between the vertebrae.  Jurors awarded the football player more than $4.2 million in his medical malpractice suit after less than two hours of deliberation. They decided the doctor was negligent when he operated on the wrong place in the athlete’s back.  As a result, the operation damaged a -healthy disc and did not repair the injured disc the patient needed fixed.  The doctor might not have to pay the whole judgment because there is a law that limits the pain and suffering damages in medical malpractice cases in NV to $350,000.

The back pain started after the athlete’s sophomore year in 2009.  MRI results showed the player’s L5-S1 disc, in the lower back, was herniated. Discs can irritate nerves when they herniate, or slip.

The doctor operated on the plaintiff to repair the damaged disc on September 17, 2010. The doctor testified during the trial that he was fixing on the correct disc. 

Usually in a medical malpractice suit, there is testimony from an expert witness.  Another doctor said in lawsuit documents that he saw damage to the higher disc and thought no surgery had been done on the herniated disc. As a result of the doctor allegedly not operating on the herniated disc, the athlete would have permanent spinal issues, the other doctor said.

Complications from surgeries caused the football player’s spine to degenerate. The player will need at least two spinal fusion surgeries before he turns 50 years old, the medical expert testified during the trial. The cost of those surgeries will be around $800,000.

The neurosurgeon not only lost the lawsuit against the former UNLV football player, but might lose his medical license as a result of spinal damage the football player suffered.  The Nevada Board of Medical Examiners filed a complaint against the doctor mirroring those levied in the 2011 civil complaint against the doctor.  The complaint stated the doctor performed surgery on the wrong disc in 2010.

The doctor is a Las Vegas surgeon who once was chief of staff at Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center.  The doctor is known in local sports.  The doctor worked with UNLV athletics for over 30 years and is a ring-side physician for mixed-martial-arts fights.

During a deposition, the doctor admitted to not properly performing in a surgery on another former UNLV football player.  Previously, the doctor was sued six times for malpractice and paid a total of about $5.5 million in settling the cases, according to medical board records.

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