Legal Question in Medical Malpractice in California

My Grandmother underwent a hip replacement surgery in the fall of 2003, and the surgeon botched the operation. He had been on a vacation up until the day of her surgury, and was even late to the hospital looking hungover, tired, and annoyed that he had to do the procedure. With bloodshot eyes he assured us(most of the family was at the hospital) that the procedure would take no more than 2 hours and my Grandmother would be walking almost immediately. 2 hours past, then 4, then finally after 6 hours the Dr. came out to tell us he had mistakingly fractured her femur, cracking it all the way down the bone. He warned us that she was not in good condition, and that we should just let her rest. No one was about to do that and when we saw her it was horrible. She was either too incoherent from the massive amounts of morphine/dilodid that was being administered to her intravenously, or in such excruciating pain that all she would do was beg to die. The Dr. who preformed surgery left and my grandfather stayed in the hospital with her. During his stay with her, that lasted about a week, he literally saved her life. As she lied in the hospital bed, trying to speak, she was passing out, mumbling gibberish, dying. My Grandfather was shaking her, imploring her to wake up and to hold on, but my Grandmother was not responding. After numerous attempts to reach out to hospital staff, my Grandfather decided to look at her leg himself, and when he did he found it to be completely black. She was bleeding internally, loosing blood by the minute due to the fractured femur. This was when my Grandfather took a stand, went out into the area of the hospital where her nurse was and informed her she was bleeding out and needed a blood transfusion. After the nurse shrugged him off he got angry and told her to get the G** D*** Dr. there immediately or there was going to be a problem(he can be extremely intimidating when he wants to be). The Dr. came, looking even more trashed than when he did the surgery, and said there was no blood for the transfusion available for her. Bu** Sh**! my Grandfather screamed, as all 4 of her sons, 2 of their wives, and me, her Grandson, had donated blood prior to her surgery just to be safe. "Oh, we checked again and found it", was the Dr's response after that. So the transfusion took place, and after a week she was discharged from the hospital and sent home. She lived in a haze for about a year, due to the combination of very potent pain medication and her old age(68), all the time being told by her surgeon that she was "Nit-Picking", and that everything she was experiencing was all part of the healing process. She kept up hope that she would get better, that her pain would eventually subside as the surgeon had told her, but it never happened. She got, and continues to get progressively worse, and the replacement hip that the surgeon put in has slipped halfway down her leg. Before the surgery, she could walk, even run, with discomfort. She didn't want to have such discomfort and was pressured into surgery with promises that it was a safe surgery that people have done every day with minimal recovery time. Last night when I visited my Grandparents, my Grandmother sat on the couch all night because she is no longer able to walk as the complications stemming from this whack job surgeon's shotty hip replacement have since moved into her back, her foot, and her knee. She went into this surgery with the hope of fixing a joint problem in her hip, and 6 years later she is know unable to walk, much less run or climb stairs. My understanding is that the statute of limitations for medical malpractice is between 1-5 years depending on the state(ca), but back then she had no idea she would completely lose use of her leg. The Dr. kept assuring her it would get better, which I am assuming was for the purpose of holding her over until he knew the statute of limitations was up. My question is, due to the fact that she is facing new, recent crippling complications from the surgery, and was misled to think "everything was going to be ok", taking advantage of her old age, does she have a case against the Dr who permanently ruined the remaining years of her life? She wants to take action, but we are unsure if her case will hold up in court, due to the statute of limitations, however I understand that there are exceptions. Please let me know, thank you for your time.

Asked on 12/21/09, 4:57 pm

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1 Answer from Attorneys

Terry A. Nelson Nelson & Lawless

If you are asking if the patient can sue for malpractice over a 2003 operation, the answer is no. It is years past the statute of limitations in CA or any other state.

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Answered on 12/29/09, 10:35 am

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