A Montgomery County jury Thursday afternoon reached a $5.6 million verdict after a nine day medical malpractice case against an osteopath for causing nerve and spinal injuries during a high velocity cervical manipulation performed upon his patient. The claims were brought by Nancy and James Marquez against Hadi M. Rassael, D.O. and Advanced Medical and Cosmetic Group, Inc. The jury deliberated 7 hours before reaching its verdict. Approximately $2.7 million of the award was for past and future lost earnings of Ms. Marquez who was a physical therapist at the time of the improper manipulation, and who was never able to return to her profession due to her nerve and back injuries. Ms. Marquez continues to suffer intractable pain and has undergone two surgeries to repair her damaged brachial plexus and to replace a disrupted disc at level C5-6 in her neck. Approximately $276,000 of the award was for past medical expenses. The remaining $2.5 million was awarded for noneconomic loss to Ms. Marquez and her husband. That award is subject to Maryland’s cap on noneconomic loss. Marquez, et ux, v. Rassael, et al, Case No. 298673-V (Circuit Court for Montgomery Co.).
In February 2005, Ms. Marquez presented to Dr. Rassael’s office for purposes of receiving a very light, non-twisting osteopathic manipulation to her hip joint know as “muscle energy technique.” Since her days as a Division One swimmer on the Michigan State swim team, and her participation in numerous triathalons, many of which she had won, she suffered from periodic hip pain which was resolved through use of the muscle energy technique. She presented to Defendant Rassael’s office after specifically asking whether he was familiar with that technique and was told he was. After arriving at the office, however, the doctor laid Ms. Marquez on an exam table and proceeded to examine her back. When his hands got to the back of her head, he suddenly and without warning twisted her neck in both directions in a forceful manner, causing injury to the nerves in her neck and a rupture of one of her vertebral disks at C5-6. Ms. Marquez, now age 33, has never recovered from her injuries which plague her with pain and muscle atrophy that prevents her from participating in competitive sports of any type. She underwent a brachial plexus decompression surgery and a disk replacement surgery in Germany.
Of significance, during the trial, the defendants intended to call a neuroradiologist, Charles Citrin, M.D., as an expert. Believing Dr. Citrin was a “professional witness” whose opinions were suspect, the plaintiffs sought discovery of Dr. Citrin’s financial records to prove he was a “hired gun” expert. After three attempts to obtain this information to no avail, the presiding judge, The Honorable Marielsa Bernard, ordered Dr. Citrin to appear before her. After considering his testimony as to the whereabouts of his financial records as “disingenuous” and his honestly questionable, she refused to allow Dr. Citrin to testify. This is one of the first reported cases that were are aware of where an expert was stricken for failing to produce financial information as to his/her income as an expert witness.
The plaintiffs were represented by Alan J. Belsky and Valerie A. Grove of Belsky, Weinberg & Horowitz. The Defendants were represented by D. Lee Rutland and Robert S. Morter of Wharton, Levin, Ermantrout & Klein of Annapolis.
This case is an example of the difficult cases Belsky, Weinberg & Horowitzhave taken to trial with incredible results. The case also typifies the tenacity of our lawyers in obtaining justice for our clients. Please contact our firm for more information about this case or any questions you may have of our attorneys.