MANKATO — A Mankato doctor was exonerated by a jury Tuesday in a medical malpractice case in which a high school athlete injured in a football game had claimed the doctor misdiagnosed his injury.
John Montag was playing in a high school football game in 2004 when he suffered a severe injury to his right lower leg. Both bones were broken, and Montag was transported via ambulance to the Mankato hospital.
His care was directed by Edwin Harrington, a physician with the Orthopaedic and Fracture Clinic. Montag would ultimately need more than a dozen surgeries and skin grafts to repair his leg and foot, and he claimed Harrington misdiagnosed his injury and failed to properly assess his symptoms.
Montag’s lawsuit claimed he’d suffered “permanent and devastating injuries to his mind and body,” the original court filing had said. He also claimed lost wages, both past and future.
But after a day of deliberation, a jury decided Harrington was not negligent in his care of Montag. Montag was seeking damages, part of which was more than $550,000 in medical expenses related to the injury.
The crux of Montag’s claim was the allegation that Harrington failed to diagnose what is known as compartment syndrome. Compartment syndrome occurs when there is increased pressure around a muscle. Left untreated, it can lead to nerve damage and muscle loss.
In the original court filings, Montag presents a case built on medical chart notes. In numerous updates, Harrington’s notes show that his assessment was that there was not evidence of compartment syndrome.
As updates continued, Montag’s pain level was documented as getting worse. Finally, several days after his injury, the chart notes showed that Montag was experiencing full numbness in his right knee and entire leg and foot, as well as ankle swelling and no motion.
Now the assessment was that Montag did have compartment syndrome, and Harrington performed a four-hour surgery to repair it. After his surgery, Montag’s progress was monitored and his injuries were irrigated. Harrington noted some of the muscle tissue had died.
Eventually, Harrington consulted with a doctor at the Hennepin County Medical Center and had Montag transferred to Minneapolis. Montag would eventually have to undergo physical therapy and additional surgery for “right foot claw toe deformities.”