Friday, January 29, 2010

Medical lawsuit settled out of court

Ketchum man reports financial settlement with St. Luke’s

Express Staff Writer

A Ketchum man who alleged that a broken surgical tool was left in his knee from an operation in 2007 has reached a financial settlement with St. Luke's Wood River Medical Center.

David Robrahn, who filed a lawsuit against St. Luke's in November, said in an interview that he had received a cash settlement, but that he had signed an agreement to not disclose the amount. However, Robrahn acknowledged that an estimate of $20,000 to $30,000 "was pretty close" to the total.

Also named as defendants in the lawsuit were physicians Anthony M. Buoncristiani and Delmer J. Pletcher, as well as Sawtooth Orthopedics and Sports Medicine where the two doctors practice.

The case was dismissed on Jan. 20 in Blaine County 5th District Court because of a stipulated agreement submitted to the court and signed by attorneys for all the parties involved. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed in court documents.

"Basically, it was settled," Buoncristiani said. "We had to pay nothing. I can't speak for the hospital."

St. Luke's spokeswoman Tanya Keim declined to discuss terms of the settlement.

Robrahn alleged in his lawsuit that Buoncristiani and Pletcher performed surgery on his knee at St. Luke's on Dec. 4, 2007. For the next 10 weeks, Robrahn claimed, he suffered joint pain, stiffness, swelling and decreased range of motion in his knee.

He alleged that an X-ray performed on Feb. 11, 2007, showed a "foreign body" and that Buoncristiani performed surgery the following day and removed from his knee "what appeared to be part of a broken Freer elevated device."

Robrahn said Wednesday that the piece removed was about three-quarters of an inch long, about an eighth of an inch wide and appeared to be made from stainless steel.

A Freer elevator is a surgical tool about 7 inches long and typically made of stainless steel. The instrument can be fitted with sharp or blunt blades and is used for cutting tissue in hard-to-reach areas or for manipulating tissue during surgery.

Robrahn said he still suffers because of complications from the two surgeries.

"It still bothers me," he said. "I can only snowboard at about half speed."

Robrahn said he's uncertain if he'll seek further litigation because of the knee.

"It's closed for the moment," he said. "It was settled with the hospital but it wasn't settled with doctors Buoncristiani and Pletcher and Sawtooth Orthopedics."

Buoncristiani said he was unable because of legal and ethical responsibilities to discuss the situation, but said he believes his treatment of Robrahn was both ethical and professional.

Terry Smith:

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