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Radiologist Dismissed From Paralysis Lawsuit

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As part of the final resolution of a 2007 medical malpractice suit filed by a semiparalyzed Florida woman, a radiologist was dismissed from the suit.

The case involved Sheila Matthews, now 61, of East Naples in southwest Florida. According to the Naples Daily News, in March 2005, she walked to an ambulance she had called because of shortness of breath and back pain. Three days later, she was unable to walk.

Matthews’ lawsuit said her neurological condition deteriorated after she was admitted to NCH North Naples Hospital. Witnesses testified during a 2009 trial that she sometimes lay screaming in pain, but she testified that the doctors didn’t consider her condition an emergency.

After several days, she was transferred to NCH Downtown Naples Hospital, where a lumbar MRI found a herniated disc. Two days later, another MRI found a large epidural abscess in her spine.

Emergency decompressive surgery helped Matthews regain some arm motion and feeling in two toes. But she was left with quadriparesis—some feeling but limited motion in all four limbs.

Just before that 2009 trial, the NCH Healthcare System, which includes Naples North and Downtown Naples hospitals, reached a confidential settlement described in court records as “substantial.” That left an internist, a neurologist, and radiologist Daniel Singer, MD, of Naples Radiologists PA, as defendants.

The 2009 trial ended in a verdict for the defendants. But Collier County Judge Cynthia Pivacek threw out that verdict after she determined that a juror had read articles about the case, done his own research, and learned about the hospitals’ settlement, all in violation of Pivacek’s orders.

The retrial was scheduled for January 2012. However, court orders that became publicly known last week show that the lawsuit was resolved through mediation on July 29. Last month, Pivacek signed a dismissal involving Dr. Singer and Naples Radiologists.

Dr. Singer’s lawyer, Robert Mangan, had argued during the trial that Dr. Singer correctly interpreted the first MRI and that no testimony had criticized his work. Regarding the latest developments, Mangan said:

Dr. Singer and Naples Radiologists were dismissed by the plaintiff. We feel this was in recognition that Dr. Singer provided excellent care and did not belong in the lawsuit.

Matthews’ attorney, Nancy La Vista, said the confidential resolution of the case prohibited her from revealing any amounts that the other two doctors or their insurers will pay.

Mattnews is a retired licensed practical nurse who had not been employed since 1992 because of a work injury that caused leg pain, reflex problems, and numbness. She will remain in a nursing home in a Naples, Florida, retirement community, where she can do little more than lie in bed.

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