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Mississippi high court grants new trial in malpractice case

Most people have heard stories about surgeons leaving sponges, instruments, towels, gloves and more in a patient during an operation. These aren't just urban legends. It actually happens — far too frequently.

One Mississippi woman is still seeking justice after a surgical sponge was left inside her abdomen when her gallbladder was removed back in 2004.

The sponge wasn't found until seven years later, when stomach pain sent her to an emergency room. She sued the surgeon as well as the facility, Baptist Memorial Hospital, where the surgery was performed.

In the initial trial, the doctor asserted that he had met the requirements for care during the surgery. He claimed that the standard requirements didn't include personal monitoring of how many sponges were used to ensure that they were all removed. He argued that he had relied on a scrub technician and a nurse to count them. The jury ruled in the defendants' favor.

The woman and her attorneys disputed two of the jury instructions. They appealed the case to the DeSoto County Circuit Court. That court upheld the jury's decision, so the plaintiff took the case to the Mississippi Supreme Court.

Last month, the high court ruled that the woman was entitled to a new trial. The justices didn't dispute the facts of the case. However, they agreed that the jury instructions in question were confusing. Therefore, they reversed the earlier ruling and ruled that the case could be retried, but with revised jury instructions.

This case goes to show that an unfavorable verdict in a medical malpractice case — or any case — doesn't have to be the last word. An experienced attorney can determine whether there were any improprieties or issues that prevented a client from getting a fair consideration of and resolution to his or her case.

Source: Legal Newsline, "Woman who had sponge left inside her for seven years granted another trial by Mississippi high court," Charmaine Little, May 15, 2018

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