Recently, the Maine Lawyers Review (June 23, 2016) reported that an Aroostook County jury awarded $240,000 to a plaintiff in a medical malpractive case against the Aroostook Medical Center for twice failing to direct him to the services of a surgeon for his hand injury, resulting in the eventual amputation of his left index finger.
Plaintiff Travis Blair severed a major nerve in his left finger when he cut himself while attempting to free his child’s Christmas present from its packaging (year unspecified). Following the injury, Blair reported to the Aroostook Medical Center where emergency doctors failed to diagnose his nerve injury. Ten days later, Blair’s Primary Care Physician (also an employee of the Aroostook Medical Center) properly identified the damage in Blair’s finger, but informed Blair that it was “too late” for surgical correction and that Blair would likely suffer numbness in his finger for the rest of his life. Eighty-one days after the injury, Blair was seen by an orthopedic who concluded that Blair should have had surgery to repair the nerve in his finger as soon as possible after it had been severed, and that the delay had deprived Blair of his best chance to restore feeling to the finger. Ultimately, Blair’s finger was amputated.
Notably, the jury’s $240,000 award in this case stands in stark contrast to the findings of the mandatory medical malpractice screening panel—who found in favor of the Aroostook Medical Center. Given the divergent outcomes between the jury award and the panel finding, the article’s author questions whether the med mal screening panel is effective in meeting the goals for which it was established: identification and compensation of meritorious claims and dismissal of those nonmeritorious.
Last year, a bill (LD 1311) that would have reformed the current medical malpractive screening system—by shifting the responsibility to a state agency—died in the Legislature. The bill was widely opposed by professionals in the legal, medical, and insurance industries. While the article does not offer a viable alternative, the author remarks that the $240,000 award serves as an example of the inefficacy of the current screening panel.