The Maine Supreme Court last week sided with a Greenbush man who was awarded $2 million in a medical malpractice suit.

In July 2013, Robbie Nason fractured a bone in his right wrist while working at Old Town Canoe, where a kayak fell on him. Nason was referred to Dr. Timothy Pruchnic, a hand surgeon employed at Eastern Maine Medical Center, who determined that surgery was needed for the wrist to heal properly. Pruchnic performed a surgical implantation of a compression screw in Nason’s wrist in September 2013.

Throughout the next few months, Pruchnic completed several imaging studies on Nason’s wrist, but failed to discover any potential problems. Believing Nason’s wrist to be healing properly, Pruchnic had Nason begin physical therapy, where he experienced pain and a distinct clicking feeling in his wrist. Eventually, Pruchnic realized that the screw he had placed in Nason’s wrist was protruding from the bone and into surrounding cartilage.

Due to Nason’s extended absence from work, his workers’ compensation agent scheduled him to be examined by another surgeon. Upon examining Nason, the surgeon immediately recognized that the screw was protruding from a bone and  performed surgery to remove the screw, during which the surgeon observed extensive damage to the cartilage of Nason’s right wrist. The surgeon performed a second surgery in an attempt to clean up as much damage as possible. Despite these efforts, Nason continued to experience pain in his right wrist, and several injections proved ineffective. Ultimately, the surgeon completed a third surgery on Nason, removing three bones.

Nason brought an action against Pruchnic and Eastern Maine Medical Center, alleging negligence in Pruchnic’s attempted surgical repair of the bone, leaving him with permanent pain and impairment of his wrist. A jury last year unanimously found Pruchnic and Eastern Maine Medical Center negligent and awarded damages of $2 million. Pruchnic moved for a new trial, or to at least have the reward reduced, on the ground that the jury verdict was excessive. Pruchnic’s motion was denied in Superior Court, leading to an appeal to the Maine Supreme Court.

In affirming the judgement in favor of Nason, justices said there is competent evidence in the record to support the trial court’s determination that there was a rational relationship between that evidence and the jury’s damage award.

“Due to Pruchnic’s negligence, three bones were removed from Nason’s wrist, leaving him permanently and significantly impaired,” wrote the court. “This impairment has caused demonstrated changes in Nason’s daily life and activities. Nason has further experienced emotional distress based on a fear of unemployability should he lose his job and a reduced self-worth due to his inability to engage in activities as he did before the surgery performed by Pruchnic. Moreover, because of the impairment, Nason was required to take a new position at work, resulting in the loss of significant overtime wages.

“Because the court could reasonably determine that the evidence bears a rational relationship to the jury’s award of $2,000,000, it was not a clear and manifest abuse of discretion for the court to deny Pruchnic’s motion for a new trial, or in the alternative, remittitur. We may not intervene merely because of the amount of the award or because another jury may have awarded less.”

Justices also dismissed Prucnic’s claims that jurors were given improper instructions, and his argument that he was prejudiced by the trial court’s redaction of several radiology reports in which the radiologists offered opinions as to potential causes of Nason’s wrist problems based on their review of Nason’s imaging studies. They additionally dismissed arguments that the trial court erred by instructing the jury to disregard all references to workers’ compensation after allowing those references to be made throughout the trial, which Pruchnic contended confused the jury and allowed Nason a double recovery.

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