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Patient’s nerve was severed during removal of tumor






New York


White Plains


Court of Claims, White Plains

Injury Type(s):

arm; other-physical therapy; other-reconstructive surgery; other-decreased range of motion; epidermis-numbness; hand/finger-hand; hand/finger-finger; neurological-nerve damage/neuropathy (nerve, severed/torn); neurological-nerve damage/neuropathy (nerve damage, radial nerve)

Case Type:

Medical Malpractice – Surgeon, Surgical Error

Case Name:

Bridgette Ruiz v. The State of New York and SUNY Downstate Medical Center University Hospital of Brooklyn at Long Island College Hospital,
No. 124696


February 26, 2016



Bridgette Ruiz (Female, 64 Years)

Plaintiff Attorney(s):

Kostantinos Mallas;
Georgaklis & Mallas PLLC, Brooklyn, NY, trial counsel, Crasto & Associates, P.C., Howard Beach, NY;
Bridgette Ruiz


State of New York

Defense Attorney(s):

Bridget E. Farrell;
Assistant Attorney General;
New York,
State of New York

Defendant Expert(s):

Roy Kulick;
Orthopedic Surgery;
NY called by:
Bridget E. Farrell


On June 10, 2013, claimant Bridgette Ruiz, 64, a retiree, underwent surgical removal of a tumor that was located in her right arm. The procedure was performed by Dr. Melita Charles, at University Hospital of Brooklyn at Long Island College Hospital, in Brooklyn. During the surgery, Ruiz’s right arm’s radial nerve was accidentally severed. The nerve was repaired, but Ruiz claimed that she suffers residual numbness. Ruiz sued the hospital’s operator, the state of New York. Ruiz alleged that Charles failed to properly perform the surgery, that Charles’ failure constituted malpractice, and that the state was vicariously liable for Charles’ actions. Ruiz claimed that her injury was not detected during the surgery, and Ruiz’s counsel contended that the oversight established that Charles had not adequately inspected and protected the operative field. Charles claimed that she detected Ruiz’s injury, that the injury was an accepted risk of the surgery that she performed, and that Ruiz had understood that risk. She claimed that the tumor was located in an unexpectedly deep area of Ruiz’s right arm, that it had become attached to surrounding tissue, and that those characteristics complicated the surgery.


Ruiz’s right, dominant arm’s radial nerve was severed. During the ensuing day, the nerve was reconstructed via application of a graft that had been harvested from Ruiz’s right leg’s sural nerve. Ruiz underwent contemporaneous courses of occupational therapy and physical therapy. The treatment was typically rendered two or three times a week, and it lasted two months. Ruiz has intermittently undergone follow-up therapy. Ruiz claimed that she experiences residual numbness of her right arm, her right hand and her right hand’s fingers, that she suffers a residual diminution of each area’s range of motion, that her residual effects are permanent, and that they hinder her performance of physical activities. Ruiz sought recovery of damages for past and future pain and suffering. Defense counsel contended that Ruiz’s severed nerve was successfully repaired, that the nerve is intact, that Ruiz achieved a good recovery, and that Ruiz’s residual effects resolved. The defense’s independent medical examiner submitted a report in which he opined that the nerve regained full functionality, that Ruiz retains normal use of her right arm and her right hand, and that Ruiz exhibits active extension of her right wrist and her right hand’s fingers.


The parties negotiated a pretrial settlement. The state agreed to pay $900,000.

Editor’s Comment:

This report is based on information that was provided by claimant’s and defense counsel.