In 2010, when Lisa Menschik suffered from severe pain in the spinal region, chest, arms, and legs, she sought care at Heartland Clinic Comprehensive Family Care in St. Joseph, Missouri. Dr. Robert Kempton ordered a host of tests, including x-rays and CT scans. After detection of irregularly high white blood count, Menschik was admitted to the facility. Other specialists were consulted, including a cardiothoracic surgeon, a neurosurgeon, and an ENT. Eventually, an abscess in her neck that was compressing her spinal cord was found, but not until it was too late and she lost functionality of her legs. Though she recovered movement of her legs through therapy, complications remain.
Menschik claimed that doctors Jose Alvarez, Brent Peterson, and David Kropf had not been quick enough to take steps to detect and treat the abscess that was compressing her spinal cord. In her 2012 medical malpractice lawsuit filed against Heartland Regional Medical Center, now known as Mosaic Life Care, Menschik accused the three doctors of negligence. Buchanan County Circuit Court, however, found that the three named doctors at Heartland Regional Medical Center were not negligent.
Menschik appealed, alleging that (1) the County Circuit Court improperly excluded evidence of past malpractice incidents; (2) the judge made inappropriate comments; and (3) her surgery was scheduled much too slowly. In July 2017, a Missouri state appellate court found that the evidence was properly presented, the judge’s comments were not inappropriate, and the surgery was not improperly delayed.
This medical malpractice case is one that may have been filed due to misplaced fault resulting from the emotional impact of a medical outcome rather than the presence of negligence or error. The facts are clear: the delay in spinal treatment was not due to the fault of the doctors but the fault of Menschik’s complicated medical situation. From the evidence provided, we know that Menschik had life-threatening conditions that had to be addressed before the final surgery to correct the abscess in the neck. Indeed, it appears that these doctors saved her life, which is the best outcome a patient facing imminent life-threatening conditions can appreciate or should appreciate.
If the outcome of your medical treatment is not what you had hoped it would be, it does not mean that malpractice occurred. Experienced attorneys identify cases that have a cause of action versus those that — though unfortunate — do not have a cause of action. Experienced attorneys know who the most reliable experts are that can substantiate medical malpractice claims. In this case, Menschik is lucky to be alive, and after therapy is able to walk again, albeit with complications. Menschik’s attorneys failed to provide appropriate evidence and failed to provide an offer of proof. Without an offer of proof, or certificate of merit, seeking millions of dollars in compensation and punitive damages was what some might call a frivolous action in this case. Finding an attorney who knows the difference between cause and no cause can make all the difference.