Logan man names two doctors in med mal suit

By Lawrence Smith | Feb 13, 2009

CHARLESTON - A Logan County man alleges two physicians contributed to him becoming disabled when they failed to diagnose and treat his symptoms of back pain.

On Jan. 15, Wade Smith Jr. filed a lawsuit against Drs. John Burdette and Somes Chandra Guha in Kanawha Circuit Court. In his complaint and suit, filed with the assistance of Tony L. O'Dell, with the Charleston law firm of Berthold, Tiano and O'Dell, Smith alleges that both misdiagnosed nerve damage in his spinal cord as acute back pain.

According to court records, Smith checked himself in the emergency room at Logan Regional Medical Center on May 18. Guha, "without performing an adequate neurological examination, timely ordering proper radiologic imaging or referring [him] timely for a neuro-surgical consult ... improperly diagnosed acute back pain and discharged Wade Smith Jr. from the emergency department."

The next day, Smith went the emergency room at St. Francis Hospital for an apparent second opinion. Like Guha, Smith alleges Burdette diagnosed his problem as acute back pain, but with a herniated lumbar disc.

To rule out a herniated disc, Burdette gave Smith a prescription for a MRI of his spine. The MRI was not done that day since Smith was unable to pay for it, records show.

Though records ware unclear if he went there to get the MRI done, but Smith returned to LRMC on May 20. Upon being diagnosed with a "control cord syndrome L4-L5," Smith was transferred to St. Mary's Medical Center in Huntington.

Upon admission to St. Mary's, records show Smith was diagnosed with acute cord compression with bladder dysfunction and cuada equina syndrome. A rare disorder that affects the "horse's tail," or bundle of nerves at the lower end of the spinal cord, CES is caused by compressed or paralyzed nerve roots.

In addition to permanent paralysis, CES can led to impaired bladder control and loss of sexual sensation. Though he is not specific in his lawsuit, Smith alleges Guha's and Burdette's failing to diagnose him with CES "rendered [him] permanently disabled."

In addition to Guha and Burdette, Smith names Southeastern Emergency Physicians, Inc. and Mountain Emergency Physicians LLP as co-defendants in his suit. According to court records, SEP and MEP are Tennessee and Michigan-based corporations that have contracts with LRMC and St. Francis, respectfully, for emergency room services.

Smith makes a claim of vicarious liability against SEP and MEP for Guha's and Burdette's actions.

As a result of the defendants' negligence, Smith alleges he incurred pain and suffering, mental anguish, a "loss of earning capacity ... and an impairment of his capacity to enjoy life."

He is seeking unspecified damages.

Both Guha and SEP via their attorney David L. Shuman, with the Charleston law firm of Shuman, McCuskey and Slicer, filed an answer to Smith's suit. In their answer dated Jan. 28, Guha and SEP denied Smith's allegations saying his "claims, if any, are barred in whole or in part, pursuant to the doctrine of informed consent.

Also, they maintain his injuries arose from a "pre-existing condition" and any negligence resulted from something other than their actions.

The case has been assigned to Judge Jennifer Bailey Walker.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number: 09-C-75

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