Darla Morris broke her left ankle while working as a nursing assistant in 2005. Over the next five years, she underwent four surgeries to correct the problem.

All of the surgeries failed, leading to the amputation of her leg below the knee in 2011.

Beth Mullens had surgery in 2007 for what she had thought were heel spurs. Eight failed surgeries later, she underwent a below-the-knee amputation of her left leg in 2010.

The two women are among eight patients with active medical-malpractice lawsuits against Dr. Leonard Janis, a Hilliard podiatrist, in Franklin County Common Pleas Court. Four of the patients had complications from ankle surgeries that led to amputations. Janis also is a defendant in a wrongful-death action.

Nine active lawsuits against one doctor “is virtually unheard of,” said Columbus lawyer Anne Valentine, who represents two of the plaintiffs and has handled civil cases for nearly 30 years.

Five of the lawsuits also name Grant Medical Center or its parent company, OhioHealth, where Janis performed surgery for nearly 26 years until he resigned his privileges in February. Janis also resigned his privileges at Doctors Hospital, an OhioHealth facility with which he had been affiliated since 1979.

Mark Hopkins, a spokesman for the hospitals, would not comment on why Janis resigned but said, “ OhioHealth has rigorous standards in place for credentialing of physicians at all our facilities. We are confident that we have done nothing wrong as it pertains to these lawsuits and plan to defend our process against these allegations.”

Janis, 65, continues to operate his podiatry practice, Total Foot and Ankle of Ohio, on Ridge Mill Drive. He has privileges at the Dublin Surgery Center and the Marysville Surgical Center.

Janis was advised by his attorney not to comment for this story. But Robin Yocum, a spokesman for the doctor, said Janis resigned his hospital privileges because he “was feeling pressured by orthopedic surgeons who were not happy that a podiatrist was performing highly technical surgeries such as ankle replacements. He elected to take his privileges to surgery centers where they welcomed the skills he has to offer.”

Yocum said Janis “believes he delivers quality care and has every intention of fighting (the lawsuits) in court.”

He said Janis performs about 600 surgeries a year and “takes on a lot of high-risk cases that other physicians aren’t willing to take on. Some have been to orthopedic surgeons who suggested that the best option is amputation. For a lot of these folks, he is the last hope.”

But the three plaintiffs who spoke with The Dispatch, each represented by Columbus attorney Daniel Abraham, said they don’t fit into that category.

Mullens, 51, of the West Side, said she had some left-foot pain but was able to play with her children and grandchildren at places such as Zoombezi Bay before Janis recommended her first surgery. Now, she wears a prosthetic lower leg, uses a walker and wheelchair and “can’t do a lot of normal activities,” she said. “I never thought I’d lose my leg.

It was very shocking.” Morris, 49, of the Far East Side, said she was “devastated” when told that she would need an amputation after her failed surgeries. “For the first six to eight months, I cried every day,” she said. “I still do. … It changes everything.”

Fred Chambers, 55, of the Far West Side, said he had no pain but made a routine visit to Janis to have his feet examined because he is diabetic. The resulting surgery left him wearing a right-ankle brace to help him walk and to prevent amputation, he said. “I used to hunt and fish,” he said. “That’s over.”

Janis is revered by other patients. They include Holly Blinn, 25, of Clintonville, who was referred to Janis after her ankles were damaged by years of jazz, tap and ballet dancing. She said he performed four surgeries on her right ankle and two on her left between 2002 and 2009.

Blinn called the repeated surgeries “entirely my fault” because she continued to dance. She decided to stop dancing competitively but has no other restrictions and said both ankles are strong, thanks to Janis. “I’d refer him in a heartbeat,” Blinn said. “He’s been great for me.”

Janis has been licensed to practice podiatry in Ohio since 1973 and is in good standing with the State Medical Board. The board has never taken disciplinary action against him, said Sallie Debolt, general counsel for the board. Janis was a defendant in 12 other malpractice lawsuits in Franklin County dating to 1991, court records show. Five were settled out of court, four were dismissed by judges, and three resulted in jury verdicts in favor of Janis.

But there has been a surge in filings against him in recent years. Of the 21 lawsuits that have named him as a defendant, 11 have been filed since 2009.

The wrongful-death lawsuit differs from those linked to failed ankle surgeries. It was filed by the widow of a 39-year-old Muskingum County man who was found unresponsive in his room at Grant Medical Center on July 16, 2009, nearly eight hours after Janis operated on him to repair a ruptured Achilles tendon.

The suit claims that the cause of death was “respiratory suppression” and that Janis and others on the medical staff oversedated and failed to properly monitor the patient, who had “undiagnosed sleep apnea.” An autopsy found the death was related to heart disease. The mere filing of malpractice lawsuits against a physician isn’t reported to the State Medical Board. Under state law, the board must be informed if a doctor is the subject of three or more claims of medical malpractice within the previous five years, each of which resulted in a settlement or judgment of at least $25,000.

In 1996, Janis was the focus of a Dispatch story about a turf war between podiatrists and orthopedists about whether podiatrists should be permitted to operate on the ankle or be confined to the foot. The debate began in 1992 when Janis, then director of podiatry at Grant, applied to the hospital to perform ankle fusion surgery. Grant officials asked the State Medical Board whether the surgery was within a podiatrist’s scope of practice.

In January 1997, the board adopted a definition of the foot that includes the ankle joint, making ankle surgery permissible for Janis and other podiatrists who meet hospital and training requirements.

Source: The Columbus Dispatch, July 9, 2012, by John Futty

Darla Morris broke her left ankle while working as a nursing assistant in 2005. Over the next five years, she underwent four surgeries to correct the problem.

All of the surgeries failed, leading to the amputation of her leg below the knee in 2011.

Beth Mullens had surgery in 2007 for what she had thought were heel spurs. Eight failed surgeries later, she underwent a below-the-knee amputation of her left leg in 2010.

The two women are among eight patients with active medical-malpractice lawsuits against Dr. Leonard Janis, a Hilliard podiatrist, in Franklin County Common Pleas Court. Four of the patients had complications from ankle surgeries that led to amputations. Janis also is a defendant in a wrongful-death action.

Nine active lawsuits against one doctor “is virtually unheard of,” said Columbus lawyer Anne Valentine, who represents two of the plaintiffs and has handled civil cases for nearly 30 years.

Five of the lawsuits also name Grant Medical Center or its parent company, OhioHealth, where Janis performed surgery for nearly 26 years until he resigned his privileges in February. Janis also resigned his privileges at Doctors Hospital, an OhioHealth facility with which he had been affiliated since 1979.

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One of the most well-publicized and most misunderstood cases in history is the “McDonald’s coffee case.” To understand more about the case, and the woman so severely injured, check out this video.

 

Untreated Heroin Withdrawal Results in Death and Civil Rights Lawsuit

Cleveland, Ohio.  March 7, 2014.  A federal civil rights lawsuit was filed today against Richland County jail officials who failed to treat Corey Tolar’s heroin withdrawal which resulted in his death on September 29, 2012.  The lawsuit alleges that Tolar suffered excruciating, painful and wrenching withdrawal symptoms in full view of jail medical staff.  No meaningful treatment was provided before his death.  By coincidence the case was filed on the same day that state officials are holding a public hearing to consider relaxing regulations regarding Ohio jail standards.  Co-Counsel Al Gerhardstein stated, “These tragic deaths can be avoided.  All Sheriffs need to stay vigilant and provide inmates the basic treatment needed to avoid death through withdrawal.”  Drug addiction is a common problem in Richland County and the family hopes through this case to ensure that citizens get the help they need when they experience withdrawal.  Attorneys Gerald Leeseberg and Craig Tuttle of Columbus are co-counsel on the case.  A copy of the lawsuit is available here: Complaint.  A copy of Mr. Gerhardstein’s objections to the relaxation of standards governing Ohio’s jails is available here: Public Comment.

The case is pending in federal court in Cleveland, Ohio and assigned to judge Donald C Nugent.

Once again, the medical malpractice lawyers and personal injury lawyers at Leeseberg & Valentine have earned the distinction of being named one of the “Best Law Firms” in the country by U.S. News & World Report’s 2014 Best Lawyers publication. Leeseberg & Valentine was named a Tier 1 law firm for personal injury litigation, which is the highest distinction given by the publication. This honor is especially rewarding in that the “Best Law Firms” are determined by a rigorous evaluation of a combination of client feedback and our firm’s reputation among other lawyers in the legal community.

The Columbus medical malpractice lawyers and personal injury lawyers at Leeseberg & Valentine are honored to be named a “Best Law Firm” and look forward to continuing to fight for justice on behalf of those injured from the negligence of others.

 

Once again, the medical malpractice lawyers and personal injury lawyers at Leeseberg & Valentine have earned the distinction of being named “Super Lawyers.”  Congratulations to Gerald Leeseberg and Anne Valentine for being named Super Lawyers.

Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The selection process is multi-phased and includes independent research, peer nominations and peer evaluations, making it a truly special honor.

The Columbus medical malpractice lawyers and personal injury lawyers at Leeseberg & Valentine are honored to be named “Super Lawyers” and look forward to continuing to fight for justice on behalf of those injured from the negligence of others.

By Meghan Connolly and Dennis Mulvihill, January 20, 2014, Cleveland.com

Dr. Michael Kirsch’s column (“Litigation fever causing headaches for able physicians,” published in The Plain Dealer Jan. 12) is the epitome of a double standard. While he says that we, nondoctors, should take more responsibility for our own mistakes, nowhere does he suggest the medical community should take responsibility for medical mistakes that cause serious injury and death to patients. Nowhere does he acknowledge that preventable medical errors are the leading cause of accidental death nationwide, and third leading cause of death from all causes — killing as many as 400,000 patients annually, according a study in the September 2013 Journal of Patient Safety. Or that one-third of hospital patients fall victim to medical negligence each year, as reported in the April 2011 issue of Health Affairs. Or that doctors are currently pressing the Ohio General Assembly to pass House Bill 276, a law that would allow doctors to lie to a civil jury about having previously admitted to the patient at the hospital that they made a mistake. Are these examples of the medical profession taking responsibility for its errors?

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Source: The Pop Tort – December 3, 2013

Hey kids, it’s December and that means finals!  (You remember our last exam, right?)  So get out those #2 pencils again.  Actually, what year is this? Get out those laptops – and begin:

Medical errors in the U.S. rank where as a cause of death?

a. 50th
b. 25th
c. 10th
d. 3rd

Answer: “d”!  According to the report, published in the Journal of Patient Safetyand reported by Pro Public, “between 210,000 and 440,000 patients each year who go to the hospital for care suffer some type of preventable harm that contributes to their death, the study says.  That would make medical errors the third-leading cause of death in America, behind heart disease, which is the first, and cancer, which is second.”

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Recently, the Supreme Court of Ohio heard oral arguments in the case of Cromer v. Children’s Hospital Medical Center of Akron. The case addresses the issue of whether the precise harm to the patient in a medical malpractice case must be foreseen by the defendants, in order for negligence to be shown. One case cited by the parties arguing Cromer was Needham, another case involving foreseeability of harm. Having served as trial attorneys in Needham, it is important to note some facts from that case that may be relevant to the outcome in Cromer and its implications on medical malpractice cases.

Needham involved a woman who died from necrotizing pancreatitis following a procedure performed for improper indications. The plaintiffs alleged it was negligent to have performed the procedure, contending the procedure should not have been done.  There was no evidence that the procedure was performed in a negligent manner; the complication that developed was a known risk and complication of even a properly performed procedure. Plaintiff’s expert argued it was below the standard of care, as defined by medical guidelines, to expose the patient to the risk of a known possible injury by performing a procedure that was inappropriate.

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In Estate of Johnson v. Smith, Supreme Court of Ohio recently addressed Ohio’s “apology statute” (R.C. 2317.43) which prohibits the use of a physician’s statement of sympathy to a victim as evidence of an admission of liability, and prohibits the statement’s use in medical malpractice cases. The protected statements are those expressing sympathy, empathy, or condolence to the patient. For example, a statement from a doctor to a patient that the doctor is “so sorry this happened to you,” is protected by the statute.

In Johnson, the Court determined that a doctor’s statement that he “took full responsibility” for the patient’s injury, was covered by the apology statute, and prohibited from being used as evidence. Such a decision means that the Supreme Court is getting ever closer to protecting a doctor’s statement that the injury was his or her “fault” or that he or she “messed up.” Unfortunately, the Johnson decision clouded the waters between sympathetic-type statements and admissions of fault.

There is nothing wrong with excluding expressions of sympathy, empathy, or condolence, since those can be misconstrued to be admissions of fault. That was the true intention of the apology statute from the outset in Ohio and other states. However, there is no way to misconstrue acknowledgement of “responsibility” as an expression of sympathy, empathy, or compassion. A doctor only has “responsibility” for an outcome if he caused the outcome.  This is not the purpose of the apology statute, yet the Supreme Court has expanded the statute’s definition to include such statements.

The big question remains, will any statement by a doctor to a patient be protected? If a doctor says “I’m sorry, your injury is my fault” or “I caused your injury,” is that inadmissible as well? What if the statement was in writing or recorded somehow? Would this still be inadmissible to show the doctor’s expression of fault?  Unfortunately, if the Court is protecting statements accepting “responsibility” for an outcome, can a statement acknowledging “fault” for an outcome be that far from protection?

Raise the Cap on Medical Malpractice Verdicts – L.A. Times

October 9, 2013

While this article is written about the medical malpractice verdicts in California, the content is equally applicable to Ohio’s tort reform laws. The authors explain quite clearly why limitations on damages in medical malpractice cases are harmful to citizen rights. LA Times, August 13, 2013 – By Nora Freeman Engstrom and Robert L. Rabin For [...]

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