A Mississippi woman had back surgery in 2015 and upon waking, found she had second and third-degree burns on her upper thigh and what appeared to be surgical tool imprints on her skin. Her medical record relating to the surgery made no mention of anything occurring in the region.
The patient contacted the Mississippi Board of Medical Licensure and attended one of their meetings to express concern. Charles Miles, the Board President, explained that they are not the entity that handles medical liability problems. Instead, they focus on licensing and only get involved in situations where a problem is habitual. The patient explained that recently two other patients have complained about situations involving the same surgeon.
The originial patient insists that the board has sufficient grounds to pursue an investigation. She says there is a lack of transparency and assumes that there are likely other victims. Because the medical records had minimal documentation, she felt unable to pursue a medical malpractice case, and since then, the statute of limitations period has passed. Miles acknowledged that they had received “a few” complaints regarding Dr. Adam Lewis, a neurosurgeon in Jackson; however, he was unable to elaborate on details at that time. Lewis' attorney spoke on his behalf explaining that he is unable to discuss the details due to doctor-patient privilege.
The women began communicating and records were reviewed regarding Dr. Lewis. Vesta Hathaway was a patient of his that had a lateral spinal fusion in 2004. She says that the doctor had overlooked a loose bone chip caused by the procedure, which later resulted in severe nerve damage, paralysis in one leg and persistent pain that requires her to use a walker for assistance.
In her initial medical malpractice trial, the jury was unable to reach a verdict. A year later, a second trial resulted in a jury finding that Lewis was not negligent in the matter and the Supreme Court denied the opportunity for a new trial.
Kasey Moore-Byrd was the wife of a spinal surgery patient of Dr. Lewis that believes the surgery led to his death that was discussed in a 2011 Wall Street Journal article. The women are now increasing awareness about the physician in hopes of uncovering other victims.
Mississippi Malpractice Statutes
The state requires that those pursuing an action against a medical provider for negligence to provide the defendant with sixty days of advanced notice before formally filing a suit. The state's Supreme Court has reinforced their support of compliance with the provision. The statute of limitations for medical negligence claims is two years.
Although legal challenges have been made, the statute imposes a limit (cap) of $500,000 for recovery of noneconomic damages. They define noneconomic damages as those including pain and suffering, mental distress, loss of companionship, deformity, loss of enjoyment and others. Plaintiffs who are determined to have contributed some negligence to an injury are still eligible for recovery; however, any award for damages is reduced in proportion to this amount of negligence.