DEERFIELD BEACH, FL (February 21, 2018) — Plaintiff’s personal injury and commercial litigation law firm Cutler Rader announces a $700,000 settlement in a case involving Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, previously called Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy. The case settled two days before the scheduled start of jury selection.
The case involved a client who claimed to be hit by a shopping cart at a store. The defense claimed that she was not hit or, in the alternative, if she was hit the impact was so minimal that it could not have caused the claimed damages.
Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, or CRPS, is a poorly understood nerve pain condition that usually affects a single limb but can spread. On the McGill Pain Scale, it is the only ailment considered to be more painful than natural childbirth, and may manifest in intense burning, cold, numbness and other feeling disorders. Unfortunately, however, there is no diagnostic test for CRPS. As is often the case, here there was no MRI, X-Ray, Nerve Conduction Study- or any other test- that conclusively proved that the client is suffering from the disorder.
While a patient may demonstrate observable signs or symptoms of CRPS (changes in skin texture and color, temperature differences between the affected limb and the others, changes in hair growth, to name a few), some patients have very few observable signs. Although our client was clearly in excruciating pain, there were few observable signs and, consequently, little documentation by physicians of objective findings consistent with CRPS.
In this case it was, as it often is, a diagnosis that is left after everything else is ruled out; a diagnosis of exclusion. From a trial lawyer’s perspective, this is very difficult because there is nothing we can point to that proves that the patient is suffering.
To make proving the case still more difficult, many health care providers, including physicians, have little experience with CRPS and therefore do not recognize its signs. With an ailment such as CRPS that requires early intervention if it is to be cured, this delayed diagnosis frequently leads to an incurable pain condition. Such was the case here.
In cases where the only proof that the patient is suffering is the patient’s own word, the plaintiff is subject to the usual defense of malingering (lying for a litigation payoff). In addition, the defense will usually claim that the plaintiff is suffering from a Somatization Disorder which, according to the defense- hired experts, means that the plaintiff only thinks they’re in pain, but it is all in their head). This defense is humiliating and infuriating to a person who is suffering. The patient is experiencing pain that has been called “a window into Hell”, only to be told that they’re exaggerating, “mistaken” or even outright lying.
Rader takes issue with these defenses. To begin, he questions whether there’s a difference between thinking you are in pain and actually being in pain? “Pain is subjective; if you think it hurts, it hurts. Who is the defense to say it doesn’t hurt?” Second, to disregard a patient’s suffering, and defend by claiming “it’s all in your head” is not only condescending but cruel. “You know, up until a few years ago there were defense experts saying that fibromyalgia doesn’t exist. They also claimed that there were no real issues with concussions in football. They say what they want to gin up a defense. Perhaps we should call it ‘FAKE MEDICINE’.”
To make matter still more difficult from a proof standpoint, CRPS can develop as a result of very minor impacts. What the client thought was an inconsequential bump at the time it occurred can develop into a horrific and devastating pain condition that has no cure. From the trial lawyer’s standpoint, not only do we face the challenge of proving the patient is suffering, we also have to prove to a jury that the suffering is from a very minor impact.
“The settlement of this case for such a substantial number proves that the store was worried that Cutler Rader would obtain a large verdict if the case had gone to trial,” Rader said. “We are pleased that our client will now have money in her pocket and that she received justice for what she has been- and will continue- to suffer. That’s our job. Justice Served.
Mr. Rader, a Martindale-Hubbell AV rated attorney, is a partner at Cutler Rader, P.L. in Deerfield Beach where he represents people and their families in personal injury, sexual abuse, premises liability, wrongful death, medical malpractice, defective product and business litigation cases. If you have a legal issue please give us a call; all initial consultations are free.