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Romanucci & Blandin reaches $8 million medical malpractice settlement in delayed diagnosis of spinal cord injury case, causing permanent physical harm

August 30, 2023

CHICAGO (August 30, 2023) – Romanucci & Blandin, LLC Founding Partner Stephan D. Blandin, Partner Michael E. Holden, Senior Attorney Debra L. Thomas and others secured an $8 million medical malpractice settlement on behalf of a middle-aged union laborer who sustained permanent spinal cord damage and partial paralysis as a result of a delayed diagnosis and treatment of a spinal cord injury known as a spinal epidural abscess (SEA).

In October 2016, the Plaintiff presented to the emergency department of a Chicagoland hospital complaining of chest pain, difficulty breathing, and severe back pain which radiated across both flanks. Plaintiff was diagnosed with a back spasm, prescribed anti-inflammatory medications, and discharged. Despite Plaintiff meeting criteria for systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS), with three of the 4 essential criteria as positive, the emergency room did not perform any additional work-up to rule out an infection as being the source of the severe back pain.

Several days after being released from the hospital, on a Sunday morning, Plaintiff’s neurological deficits had dramatically worsened as the spinal infection grew, which in turn began to exert even greater pressure on his spinal cord. Plaintiff’s family called 9-1-1, and Plaintiff was eventually taken to the same emergency department via ambulance. During the second ER admission, Plaintiff presented with numerous red flags indicative of a severe spinal cord compression, including being unable to walk on his own, numbness and tingling sensation that radiated down his legs, and urine retention. Despite documented complaints that Plaintiff’s neurological pain and deficits began in the T10 area of his spine, i.e., Plaintiff’s thoracic spine, and despite knowledge that MRI imaging was a critical step in diagnosing and treating Plaintiff’s presumptive spinal cord injury, the ER physician (the same one from Plaintiff’s ER visit several days earlier) ordered only a lumbar spine MRI which, as expected, failed to capture the relevant area of Plaintiff’s spine and thus in turn prevented a diagnosis. Worse yet, as a result of failures in communication and coordination amongst the treating physicians and staff, the correct MRI imaging (thoracic spine MRI) was not performed until over 12 hours after Plaintiff arrived at the hospital. 

Plaintiff was eventually transferred to another hospital where he underwent an emergency laminectomy procedure Monday morning, and the pressure that was crushing Plaintiff’s spinal cord was finally removed.  However, the delayed diagnosis and treatment of Plaintiff’s spinal epidural abscess led to permanent spinal cord damage causing, among other injuries, permanent weakness in his legs and muscle tone and negatively impacting Plaintiff’s bladder function and control. He often needs a cane to walk.

“Defendants’ delayed diagnosis and treatment of Plaintiff’s spinal epidural abscess led to permanent spinal cord damage. While nothing can restore his physical condition, it is our hope that the financial award in this case can help make him more comfortable in the years to come and is a means by which to hold these medical professionals accountable for what should have been a treatable condition if diagnosed in a reasonable time frame,” said Partner Michael E. Holden, Romanucci & Blandin.

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About Romanucci & Blandin, LLC

Romanucci & Blandin is a Chicago-based national trial practice committed to fighting for victims of negligence, abuse and wrongful death. For 25 years, we have secured more than $850 million in verdicts and settlements for our clients - many for millions of dollars and others record-setting awards.  Our experience ranges from mass shootings, civil rights and police misconduct to medical malpractice, sexual abuse, motor vehicle accidents or workplace injury cases involving individual or institutional negligence. Romanucci & Blandin is a valuable legal resource to individuals and groups of people who have been injured by others’ wrongdoing. Referring attorneys and clients say several factors differentiate our firm: Our record of success, depth of experience, talented and dedicated legal team, tireless preparation and strategic use of communications to fight for the rights of those whose lives have been changed forever. We are different from other personal injury firms in that our work does not stop when a verdict or settlement is secured.  We are often inspired by our clients’ experiences and commit resources to create change in our communities. For more information about Romanucci & Blandin, please visit or call (312) 458-1000.

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