YAKIMA, Wash. -- A Yakima jury last week awarded $1.2 million to a patient in a medical malpractice lawsuit against a local spine surgeon.
The suit against Dr. Michael Thomas, who works for Cascade Neurosurgical Associates, was filed by Emily Daley, 42, after scoliosis surgery in 2011 left her with severe pain and an abnormal spine position.
The surgery, which took place in July 2011, was intended to correct Daley’s chronic back pain from scoliosis. Instead, the lawsuit said Thomas’ substandard care during the surgery and inadequate follow-up care made it worse.
Neither Thomas nor his attorney could be immediately reached for comment Tuesday evening.
Thomas was previously put on probation by the state Department of Health, after he was found to be under the influence of narcotics while performing a neck and spine operation in 2012.
In its verdict last Thursday, a Yakima County Superior Court jury found Thomas was negligent and that his negligence was “a proximate cause of injury” to the plaintiff, according to the court document.
The monetary award was split into $219,052 for past medical expenses and $1 million for non- economic damages, according to the court document.
Daley filed her suit in Superior Court in June 2015, nearly a year after another spine surgeon operated on her to correct the forward and left lean of her spine that the lawsuit blamed on Thomas’ surgery.
Daley’s attorney, Felix Luna, said in a news release that prior to having her spine fixed, Daley’s pain was sometimes so severe that she passed out, and that it had a severe impact on her life in the three years between the first and final surgeries.
Brendan Hughes, the media contact for the Peterson Wampold Rosato Feldman Luna law firm on this case, said this was the first time in nearly a decade that a Yakima jury found in favor of the plaintiff in a medical malpractice case.
“For some reason, in Yakima they tend to go to the other party — to the defendant, not the plaintiff,” he said. “First time it’s gone to the injured party in a long time, which makes it notable.”
This is not the first time Thomas’ care has been called into question.
When hospital colleagues reported “abnormal behavior” in the operating room during a March 2012 neck and spine surgery, Thomas tested positive for narcotics and benzodiazapines, according to state Department of Health documents.
The patient from that surgery suffered postoperative difficulties, the documents say.
Thomas had filled numerous painkiller prescription in late 2011 and early 2012 after undergoing back surgery himself.
After the operation in which he was removed from surgery, Thomas voluntarily completed inpatient treatment at the Washington Physicians’ Health Program, and then in 2014 reached a probation agreement with the Department of Health whereby he had to submit to random drug tests and be monitored by another physician.
According to the Department of Health website, Thomas’ medical license was last renewed in January 2015. As of January 2016, his credentials are expired.