(CN) – A veteran waited too long to sue a VA hospital for performing hernia surgery on him despite a spinal abscess, rendering him a quadriplegic 10 days after the surgery, the 11th Circuit ruled.
Three days before his scheduled surgery, Samuel McCullough went to the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa, Fla., complaining of severe neck and upper back pain. A doctor prescribed him pain medication and a muscle relaxant and sent him home.
McCullough returned the next day, claiming the pain had gotten worse. The examining physician noted a fever, but said the veteran was otherwise fine and again prescribed him a pain reliever.
McCullough underwent hernia surgery the next day. A few days later, he was rushed to an emergency room at another hospital, complaining of a fever and limb paralysis. Doctors determined that he had a spinal abscess caused by a bacterial infection.
McCullough was diagnosed with quadriplegia 10 days after the hernia surgery.
He sued the VA hospital, alleging that its failure to detect the abscess caused him to become paralyzed, and that the hernia operation only made the situation worse.
The district court dismissed the lawsuit as untimely, because McCullough had waited more than two years to sue the VA hospital after learning that his paralysis was caused by an abscess.
The federal appeals court in Atlanta reluctantly agreed.
“We feel sympathy for Mr. McCullough in light of his misfortune,” Judge Beverly Martin wrote. “Nonetheless, the statute of limitations requires us to affirm.”