Leventhal & Puga

DENVER, April 6, 2017 – A Douglas County jury has awarded Castle Rock couple Robbin and Ed Smith a $14.9 million verdict against The Surgery Center at Lone Tree – the second largest medical negligence verdict in Colorado history. The Smiths were represented by attorneys Bruce Braley and Brian Aleinikoff of Leventhal & Puga, P.C. in Denver.

Robbin Smith was 57 years old when she received an epidural steroid injection with a drug called Kenalog on Sept. 9, 2013, while a patient of the Surgery Center. Shortly after the injection, she became paralyzed from the waist down, due to a spinal cord infarction.

Bristol-Meyers Squibb, the manufacturer of Kenalog, had requested and received permission from the FDA to change its label in 2011 to read: “NOT FOR EPIDURAL USE.”

During the trial, the jury was shown examples of bottles, packages and labels with the printed warning:

The Kenalog label was also changed to add the Neurologic Warning:  “Epidural … administration of this drug is not recommended. Reports of serious medical events, including death, have been associated with epidural … routes of corticosteroid administration.”

The Kenalog label was also changed to add “Adverse Reaction – Neurologic” language describing the very adverse reaction that paralyzed Robbin Smith: “Spinal cord infarction, paraplegia, quadriplegia, cortical blindness and stroke (including brainstem), have been reported after epidural administration of corticosteroids.” 

The Smiths were never informed of these label changes before Robbin’s injections.

The jury also learned that the use of epidural steroid injections (ESIs) has increased dramatically in the United States; they are now one of the most common medical procedures performed. Over 2.3 million ESIs were performed in 2012 alone.

Robbin injuries are permanent and she will require care and assistance 24/7 for the rest of her life. She is 60 years old. Most of her daily care needs are provided by her husband, Ed, who retired early to become Robbin’s full-time caregiver. The Smith’s are also assisted by their daughter, Andrea, their son, Derrek, and his wife, Tamara. 

“We hope this is a wake-up call for Ambulatory Surgery Centers and the people who run them,” said Ed Smith. “It’s one thing to say that patient safety is your first priority; it’s another thing to actually make it your top priority. It’s one thing to say that patients have a right to participate in their healthcare decisions; it’s another thing to actually give patients the information they need to be fully informed of what they’re getting into. Both Robbin and I hope this never happens to another family in Colorado or anywhere else.”

“I’m grateful to the eight members of our jury in Douglas County who gave up two weeks of their lives to fully and fairly consider the evidence and return of verdict that finally provided justice for our deserving clients,” said the Smith’s attorney, Bruce Braley. “This verdict won’t restore Robbin’s ability to walk. But it will give Robbin and Ed the chance to make the most of the life they now have.”

Leventhal & Puga took the case in 2015. The case was tried in Douglas County District Court last month during National Patient Safety Awareness Week, and the jury returned its verdict on March 23.

The highly-regarded Institute of Medicine of the National Academies estimated that at least 1.5 million preventable adverse drug events occur each year in the United States.

ABOUT LEVENTHAL & PUGA, P.C.

Renowned as Colorado’s premier plaintiffs’ personal injury and medical malpractice firm, Leventhal & Puga, P.C., handles a wide array of cases from aviation to trucking to insurance bad faith. The firm offers a unique blend of professionalism and outside-the-box solutions. 

Bringing a deep understanding of law and medicine to each case, Leventhal & Puga attorneys use their comprehensive knowledge and proven expertise to expand, create and refine their techniques to address the unique circumstances of each case. 

As a result of this innovative approach, the firm’s lawyers have achieved multiple groundbreaking decisions in the fields of medical negligence and personal injury. The firm offers its services to those who need them regardless of income level, advancing the cost of litigation for clients who cannot afford to pay.

For more information, visit leventhal-law.com or call 303.759.9945 or 877.433.3906.