Visitor Question

Plastic surgery required after stitches in my daughter’s ear came apart…

Submitted By: Kelly (Bellmawr, NJ, USA)

My one year old daughter had an earring torn from her ear which required stitches. She was immediately taken to the ER where an intern stitched her ear. We followed the instructions on how to care for the stitches. A week went by and the stitches came apart, resulting in a split earlobe.

We were referred to a plastic surgeon by the pediatrician and was told that it needs to mature. We were told there is plenty of time and that our insurance covers it. I made an appointment about 6 months ago and was told that insurance does not cover it and I will have to pay about $7,000 out-of-pocket to fix her deformed ear.

Is the hospital that originally stitched her ear liable since the stitching literally came apart? What other recourse do I have to pay for this expensive surgery? Thanks.

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.

Answer

Dear Kelly,

The hospital and the doctor may be liable. A lot will depend on whether the stitches were properly sewn in. What you are talking about is a medical malpractice claim against the hospital and the doctor. To succeed you will have to prove medical malpractice occurred.

The legal definition of medical malpractice is as follows:

… when a doctor’s actions or omissions when treating a patient deviate from the medical standard of care in the community, and as a result a patient is injured.”

In your daughter’s case, you will need enough evidence to meet the legal definition of medical malpractice. Here’s the challenge you may face…

If the doctor followed established medical procedure when stitching your daughter’s ear, liability may not attach to him or the hospital. Doctors can only follow standard procedure. When they do and something goes awry the injured party will have a difficult time proving the doctor was negligent, i.e. deviated from the medical standard of care in the community.

Because you seem to at least have some basis for asserting doctor negligence occurred it would be in your daughter’s best interests for you to consult with an attorney. Malpractice claims should never be attempted “pro se”, or without a licensed attorney.

In addition to a medical malpractice, or in lieu thereof, you may also have the basis of a product liability claim. If the doctor followed procedure, and the stitches broke apart because they were defective, the manufacturer may also be liable. You can discuss this possibility with your attorney.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from a licensed attorney. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here , or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Published: September 23, 2013

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