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Case Study: A Frivolous Law Suit

I’m at a medical conference in Houston this week (picking up some CME credits) and between lectures I’ve had some interesting conversations with my peers. Here’s my favorite story:

A patient underwent a total hip replacement surgery, had a normal post-operative course, was transferred for inpatient rehabilitation, progressed well and was discharged home. Several months later the patient decided to sue the hospital, claiming that he was sent home with a dislocated hip. The hospital couldn’t prove that the patient’s hip was not dislocated at the time of discharge because no x-ray was taken on that day. Of course, the only reason an x-ray would have been taken was if there were a strong suspicion of a fracture or dislocation (x-rays are not normally repeated on the day of discharge).

The hospital was found liable and will settle out of court for an undisclosed (but very large) amount.

My guess is that this case will cause:

1. The hospital to take unnecessary x-rays of all total hip patients on the day of discharge from now to eternity.

2. More dishonest patients to file frivolous law suits.

3. The local med/mal attorney population to spread the word about a new source of income.

4. Further cutbacks in the hospital’s charitable care due to funding deficits.

5. Someone with a hip replacement to buy a new Ferrari.

Sigh.This post originally appeared on Dr. Val’s blog at

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5 Responses to “Case Study: A Frivolous Law Suit”

  1. Anonymous says:

    `Tis better to be safe than sorry , and possibly a lot cheaper .

  2. DeidraP says:

    How does this balance with the chatter lately re: too many xrays cause overexposure to radiation and future cancer?

  3. ValJonesMD says:

    Hi Deidra,

    The amount of radiation exposure in a hip x-ray is fairly small. Abdominal CT scans are the major culprits of excessive radiation. However, my opinion is that any amount of unnecessary radiation is too much. So that’s another reason why the litigious environment could be causing more harm than good to patients. Frustrating, isn’t it!

  4. Anonymous says:

    I know it’s a pipe dream, but, frivolous law suits, in my opinion are criminal.

    currently … I’m stuck in the middle of the fall out of such a situation. I’ve been removed from the care of my therapist, simply because she was part of a team of treament care givers of one who is being sued. So, all patients who were part of their team, are no longer on any team member, and being ‘farmed out to impartial members’

    I’ve chosen to drop therapy, I just can’t start over again.

    Too many therapists over the years … It’s not my fault that someone did something stupid and decided to sue.

    The rest of us should not have to suffer.

    It’s frivoulous at it’s worst case scenerio.

  5. C Coleman Brown MD says:

    this is unfortunate at best. just one more cog in the wheel turning toward CYA medicine. americans are too eager for the quick buck and free care and when there is an issue, obviously, someone else is at fault. thanks for bringing light to this subject

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