Dermatologist Malpractice Lawsuit

Fishpaw v. Bernstein & Robinson Dermatology

Doctor doing a Skin checkupThis medical malpractice claim was filed in Harford County when a dermatologist's intern left a broken-off needle fragment in a woman's hip. It was filed in Health Claims Arbitration on January 26, 2018, and it is the 51st medical malpractice case filed in Maryland this year.

Summary of Plaintiff's Allegations

A woman went to see a dermatologist after her primary care physician had noticed several dermatological issues during her annual check-up. She presented with growing moles and lesions on her face, torso, extremities, and groin, complaining particularly about a skin tag on her right leg that was getting caught on clothing.

The dermatologist conducted an initial examination and instructed an intern to prepare the woman for mole removals and biopsies. The intern attempted to inject the woman's right leg with lidocaine in preparation for skin tag removal, and both times the needle broke after entering her skin. On the third try, the intern was able to administer the lidocaine successfully. The dermatologist reentered the room and continued the process of mole and skin tag removal. The rest of the treatment was uneventful and the woman was discharged. Later that week, a representative from the dermatologist's office called the woman to inform her that her samples sent out for biopsy were benign.

Approximately one year later, the woman presented to her primary care physician with complaints of right hip pain. X-rays revealed a 1.5-centimeter structure in the soft tissues of her right thigh - a broken fragment of the lidocaine needle. The woman required an MRI of her right hip, but she was unable to undergo the procedure with the needle still in her leg.

The woman contacted her dermatologist's office and was told they had no record of a procedure on her right thigh. She went into the dermatologist's office a few days later, complaining of a foreign body in her right thigh and recounting her prior skin tag removal in the same area. The dermatologist again said that there was no record of her right thigh skin tag removal; the record may have been lost during a medical record storage system update that had occurred since the procedure. The dermatologist indicated that he "wanted to make it right" and referred the woman to a general surgeon for removal of the impaled needle.

The woman waited at the referred general surgeon's office for an excessive amount of time before she was informed that he does not perform these types of procedures. The surgeon was visibly agitated and felt that the referral was inappropriate. The woman then obtained a different referral from her primary care doctor for a general surgeon with the Harford Surgical Associates.

After pre-operative testing, the woman underwent the excision and removal of the foreign body in her right thigh. The surgeon sent the foreign body to pathology, where it was identified as a "tapered fragment of gray metal consistent with tip of needle."

Additional Comments
  • Dermatological malpractice claims are very uncommon, making up only 1.1% of malpractice lawsuits. When patients do sue their dermatologists, it is usually due to cancer misdiagnosis or a laser hair removal mishap.

  • While the dermatologist and the intern certainly made medical errors if the complaint is to be believed, the claimant's damages aren't entirely clear. She had to undergo additional examinations and procedures, which no doubt caused her undue stress, inconvenience, and financial cost, but did she experience any permanent physical damage as a result of the dermatologist's negligence? The statement of claim mentions that she had hip pain that required an MRI, and she could not have the MRI until the needle fragment was removed. Did the impaled needle cause the hip pain? Did her hip pain worsen or become permanent as a result of the delayed MRI? If the claimant could answer "yes" to either of these questions and find a qualified doctor to corroborate her claim, the value of her case could rise significantly.

Jurisdiction
  • Harford County
Defendants
  • A dermatologist
  • Bernstein & Robinson Dermatology, P.A.
  • Robinson & Max Dermatology, P.A.
Hospitals Where Patient was Treated Negligence
  • Failing to properly treat the claimant, breaking one or more needles within her body.
  • Failing to recognize that a foreign object was left in the claimant's body.
  • Failing to remove the foreign object from the woman's body.
  • Failing to document the medical procedures performed on the claimant.
  • Failing to timely and appropriately refer the claimant to a medical specialist.
  • Failing to develop proper employee protocols to prevent leaving foreign objects in patients' bodies.
Specific Counts Pled
  • The claimant suffered multiple physical examinations, diagnostic studies, surgery, stress, inconvenience, and pain as a result of the foreign body negligently lodged in her right thigh.

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