Jammed Finger Malpractice Lawsuit

Shipman v. United States

Finger InjuryThis orthopedic medical malpractice Federal Tort Claims Act was filed after a man's jammed finger was treated below the accepted standard of medical care. It was filed in Health Claims Arbitration on February 15, 2018, and it is the 78th medical malpractice case filed in Maryland this year.

Summary of Plaintiff's Allegations

A man with a right wrist and fourth finger (ring finger) injury presented to the Malcolm Grow Medical Clinic (MGMC) on Joint Base Andrews. A doctor at the Air Force Base determined the man's finger was sprained with a rotational deformity at the middle joint.

The doctor implemented a treatment plan consisting of a wrist splint, daily warm water soaks, and a follow-up appointment in three weeks. At the follow-up appointment, the doctor noted that the man still had a mildly decreased range of motion in his fourth finger and recommended occupational therapy.

Over the next six months, the man underwent physical and occupational therapy at MGMC. There was a slight improvement in his range of motion but no improvement to the rotation deformity.

The man's civilian primary care doctor referred him to an orthopedic surgeon at Washington Orthopaedic and Spine Institute and requested an MRI of his right fourth finger. The MRI, taken more than seven months after the injury, showed arthritic changes and synovitis at the middle joint.

The joint space had narrowed and the collateral ligaments had thickened, possibly due to a chronic sprain. In other words, the man had a volar plate injury (more commonly referred to as a jammed finger) that caused a permanent deformity, pain, and a limited range of motion when it was not properly treated in a timely manner.

Additional Comments
  • The claimant's civilian doctor allegedly confirmed that the man's finger should have been splinted for four weeks, followed by range of motion therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy with possible buddy taping. This routine ostensibly leads to excellent outcomes with normal finger function, no deformity, and no need for further surgical intervention.

  • Causation is likely to be a battle in this case if it progresses. How much of the lingering injuries are related to the delay in treatment? You do not see a lot of lawyers filing orthopedic malpractice cases even when the injuries are serious. This is often because of causation challenges.

  • Even if the MGMC doctor was in clear violation of the standard of care for a volar plate injury, but the claimant is still unlikely to find a lawyer to take on his case. A jammed finger lawsuit probably doesn't have severe enough damages to qualify for a large settlement or verdict, making it nearly impossible for a lawyer to cover the high cost of trying a medical malpractice case. This is particular true in a Federal Tort Claims Act case. Why? FTCA only allows personal injury lawyers to charge 20% if there is a settlement and 25% of a judgment awarded in litigation. So if you see a FTCA malpractice case and you see the name of a credible malpractice lawyer on the complaint, you can bet it is probably one heck of a case. A lot of people do not get justice in these cases because they cannot find a malpractice lawyer.

  • The beneficiaries of the FTCA's limitation on attorneys' fees is easy to see. Anyone who can still find a great lawyer to bring a case for them is the big winner. The losers are those people who cannot find a lawyer or cannot find the best possible lawyer for the case because the attorneys' fee limitation scares them off.

Jurisdiction Defendants
  • United States Attorney - Eastern District of Virginia
  • Attorney General of the United States
Hospitals Where Patient was Treated
  • Malcolm Grow Medical Clinic
  • Fort Belvoir Community Hospital
Negligence
  • Failing to thoroughly diagnose and properly treat a volar plate injury.
Specific Counts Pled
  • As a result of the defendant's negligence, the claimant suffered permanent pain, limited range of motion, and deformity.

Plaintiff Firm / Attorneys
  • Pro se (plaintiff is acting as his own lawyer)
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