Attorneys for Maine resident Stephen Astran, who had spinal cord surgery, have negotiated a $940,000 settlement from a Naugatuck-based chiropractor, Dr. Glenn Herman.
The parties signed a limited confidentiality agreement in which neither side would publicly mention Herman by name, but court records reveal the doctor’s identity.
Plaintiff’s lawyers say the chiropractor overlooked the symptoms of a spinal cord infection and failed to refer their client for an immediate magnetic resonance imaging scan, or MRI.
The malpractice suit against Herman alleged he neglectfully performed six chiropractic manipulations on Astran, instead of referring the patient for an emergency scan after medical indicators pointed to a serious health condition.
Herman ordered lab work for Astran, who had a two-month history of back pain with intermittent fevers. That lab work showed an elevated erythrocyte sedimentation rate, used to detect inflammation in the body.
That should have been a red flag, suggesting Astran might have had a serious illness, attorney Kimberly Andrade said.
Bur Herman missed it and continued to perform procedures on Astran for a week, according to an amended lawsuit filed in November 2016.
Eight days after his first chiropractic visit, Astran went to Waterbury Hospital’s emergency room with midabdominal numbness radiating down both legs. An MRI showed he had an epidural abscess, or puss and germs, that was compressing the spinal cord. Astran had immediate spinal cord surgery in September 2014, and then months of in- and outpatient rehabilitation therapy to learn to walk again on his own.
The question for Andrade, a partner with Adelman Hirsch & Connors in Bridgeport, was how to prove that the weeklong delay affected her client’s prognosis.
“The biggest challenge for us was the causation issue,” she said. “The issue was: If the chiropractor had sent him for an MRI, would it have made a difference? We said yes.”
Andrade said expert testimony in a deposition by Pennsylvania neurosurgeon Nirav Shah proved the plaintiff’s point.
“His opinion was that Mr. Astran could have been treated with I.V. antibiotics if the spinal infection was timely diagnosed,” Andrade said. “At that time, there was no evidence that Mr. Astran was having any neurological symptoms, such as the numbness. Therefore, there was probably no spinal cord compression at that time.”
The defense’s own witness seemed to agree.
Andrade said she deposed the defense’s expert, who said the chiropractor breached the standard of care by not sending Astran for an MRI.
“I think that testimony had an impact on weakening the defense,” Andrade said.
Podiatry Insurance Co. of America paid the settlement that was finalized May 25. Podiatry was Herman’s carrier.
Carol Doty, of Stamford’s Kaufman Borgeest & Ryan, represents Herman. Neither Doty nor Herman responded to a request for comment Friday.
Doty wrote in court documents that much of the blame should fall on Astran. She described the plaintiff as “negligent and/or careless” for allegedly failing to seek appropriate health care in the light of his medical history and signs. Her pleadings also claim Astran failed to properly inform clinicians of relevant medical history and symptoms.
Astran, 53, resides in Connecticut on weekdays because of his job as a lineman at Sikorsky Aircraft’s Bridgeport office. He commutes home to Maine on the weekends. He was out of work for about 17 months, costing him about $160,000 in lost wages, according to his attorney. Astran’s medical expenses reached $526,000, but his insurance covered most of it, Andrade said.
Today, Astran is able to walk independently and has returned to his full-time job at Sikorsky, Andrade said.
Assisting Andrade on the case was her Adelman Hirsch colleague, partner Robert Adelman.