May 22, 2021

On April 28, 2021, a six-person Lancaster, Pennsylvania medical malpractice jury unanimously found in favor of a 34-year-old woman who sued her neurologist whom she alleged had failed to timely diagnose her complex Chiari malformation, which led to her being unable to walk on her own unassisted and causes pain.

The Pennsylvania medical malpractice jury took only four hours of deliberations after an eight-day trial to award the former hairdresser $413,000 in damages for past medical expenses, and $6 million in compensatory damages for future medical expenses and pain and suffering, for a total award of $6,413,000.

Chiari malformations are structural defects in the base of the skull and cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls balance. Normally the cerebellum and parts of the brain stem sit above an opening in the skull that allows the spinal cord to pass through it (called the foramen magnum). When part of the cerebellum extends below the foramen magnum and into the upper spinal canal, it is called a Chiari malformation.


The plaintiff alleged that the defendant neurologist did not timely diagnose her Chiari malformation before she delivered her first child vaginally in 2014, which exacerbated her symptons and caused her to lose her ability to walk unassisted.

The plaintiff alleged in her Pennsylvania medical malpractice complaint that she initially advised the defendant neurologist in 2011 that she was experiencing weakness, pain, spasms, tingling, and numbness in her right arm and left leg. Then, one month later, she allegedly told the neurologist that her symptoms had spread to both arms and both legs. The plaintiff saw the defendant neurologist two more times in 2012.

The plaintiff’s Pennsylvania medical malpractice complaint detailed deteriorating symptoms within months of her 2014 delivery. The defendant neurologist ordered a brain MRI that showed the Chiari malformation. The neurologist then ordered an MRI of the plaintiff’s spine because she was no longer able to walk unassisted.

The  plaintiff subsequently sought help at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland and later at Medstar Georgetown University Hospital in Washington D.C., where she had surgery in 2015. That surgery relieved pressure on her brainstem and stabilized her spine. The surgery resulted in decreased pain and helped somewhat with walking.

The defense reportedly argued that the Chiari malformation was not the cause of the plaintiff’s alleged injuries but rather were due to the plaintiff’s stress of being a new mother or due to a mental disorder.

The plaintiff’s Pennsylvania medical malpractice lawyer stated after the verdict, “Unfortunately, while the surgery improved her condition, much of the neurologic injury is permanent.”


If you or a loved one suffered harm due to medical negligence in Pennsylvania or in another U.S. state, you should promptly find a medical malpractice lawyer in Pennsylvania or in your state who may investigate your medical negligence claim for you and represent you or your loved one in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.

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