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Jury awards $2.85 million in Myrtle Beach area medical malpractice lawsuit

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MYRTLE BEACH — An Horry County jury has awarded what is expected to be one of the state’s largest judgments this year in a medical malpractice lawsuit against an orthopedic surgeon whose actions left his patient a paraplegic, court records show.

Randy Green and his wife were awarded a combined $2.85 million after a jury determined that Myrtle Beach surgeon Wayne Bauerle negligently ordered Green to be taken from a hospital’s pre-operative holding area for a CAT scan, even though Green’s vital signs were unstable at the time.

The Greens also entered into a separate settlement with Grand Strand Regional Medical Center, where the malpractice occurred. That settlement is confidential.

Green – who suffered severe injuries from an April 17, 2004, automobile accident, including severed arteries in his forearm – was taken to Grand Strand Regional Medical Center after the wreck for surgery to stop the bleeding in his arm. While Green was being prepared for surgery, Bauerle ordered a CAT scan of the patient’s knee, which also was injured in the accident. The 30-minute delay caused by the CAT scan led Green to suffer cardiac arrest and respiratory arrest, according to testimony at the trial. Although Green was resuscitated by an emergency room doctor and an anesthesiologist, the delay led to the death of a portion of Green’s spinal cord and his permanent paralysis from just above the waist down.

Grady Query of Charleston, one of the lawyers representing the Greens, said his client’s blood pressure at the time he was sent for the CAT scan was 72 over 56, considered dangerously low by experts who testified at the trial.

“Doctors from Harvard Medical School, Charleston, and Connecticut testified that this was an indication that the patient was on the verge of a cardiac arrest and that to interrupt the treatment of the arm was negligent,” Query said. “Even doctors who testified on behalf of [Bauerle] conceded that the patient should not have been diverted from the pre-operative holding area with those vital signs.”

Query said Green’s blood pressure and pulse were zero after the cardiac arrest and that Green was without blood flow to his body for between eight minutes and 27 minutes, depending on various witness accounts and medical records.

John McCutcheon, a Myrtle Beach lawyer who represented Bauerle, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

The jury awarded $2.3 million to Green and another $550,000 to his wife, Ann, following a trial that ended on Friday in Conway. Ann Green is her husband’s sole caregiver. The couple live in Marion.

The combined verdict award would have been 10th on S.C. Lawyer Weekly’s list of top verdicts and settlements in South Carolina last year, according to Dan Gearino, editor of that newspaper, which tracks jury awards throughout the state.

“My educated guess is that this verdict will make our 2013 list, and likely be among the top dozen or so awards,” Gearino said.

Conway lawyer Morgan Martin and Charleston lawyer Cristin Uricchio also represented the Greens in the malpractice case.

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Immigration Reform Bill Increasing Work Visas Passes Senate

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The Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill on a 68-32 vote Thursday. The bill offers 11 million people living in the country illegally a path to citizenship while also dramatically increasing the number of worker visas for high-skilled workers.

The bill raises the H-1B visa cap to 110,000 from 65,000, though a provision allows an even higher extension to 180,000 if the labor markets demand it. It also makes it easier for foreign-born students who’ve acquired an advanced degree in a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) field to stay in the country.

Technology leaders lobbied hard for the H-1B cap raise and the student visa, claiming there’s a lack of sufficient homegrown STEM talent in the United States. That argument is debatable, though the bill’s changes will make it easier for technology companies to hire top global talent.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer called the Senate’s vote “a significant step toward reforming our nation’s outdated immigration policies.”

“If enacted, these changes will strengthen our economic security, foster innovation and enable continued job growth in the U.S.,” Ballmer said in a statement after the vote.

Labor groups and some lawmakers fiercely opposed raising the H-1B limit. They argued H-1B visas make it harder for Americans to find work and create an artificial government subsidy by supplying firms with foreign labor that’s cheaper than domestic workers.

A compromise deal between technology firms and labor groups included in the bill requires companies to ensure a qualified American worker isn’t available to fill a specific role before hiring a foreign worker for the job. Additionally, fees from the H-1B visas would be funneled into funding for improving STEM education in the United States.

The Senate’s bill also includes $46 billion for improving border security.

Comprehensive immigration reform now moves to the House of Representatives. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has said the legislative body he leads won’t pass the bill unless it has majority support from both parties, which many commentators agree will be an unlikely result.

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