Missouri man awarded $725,000 for complications from back surgery at VA hospital

by Jay Pate

Walter Paul Hoover of Webb City, Missouri, filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government in 2011, two years after he underwent surgery that allegedly caused complete paralysis of his quadriceps. Hoover had fallen and injured his back in 2009. During a surgery to repair his back, surgeons Drs. Jeffrey Oppenheimer and Dennis McDonnell at the John L. McClellan Memorial Veterans Hospital in Little Rock “misplaced screws into Mr. Hoover’s spinal canal,” according to Hoover’s lawsuit.

After the surgery, Hoover suffered from paralysis, primarily on the left, including no quadriceps function, numbness, and significantly increased pain, according to the lawsuit. Hoover is now primarily confined to a wheelchair and “is in constant pain,” the suit alleged.

Hoover and his wife, Vivian, first filed a claim with the Department of Veterans Affairs and demanded $5 million in damages. The claim was denied.

The Hoovers took the case to federal court. U.S. District Court Judge James Moody Jr. in Little Rock, Arkansas has ruled in favor of the Hoovers. “Dr. Jeffrey Oppenheimer placed the screw in a manner which damaged and injured Mr. Hoover’s L-3 nerve root,” Judge Moody wrote. “Dr. Oppenheimer’s negligent misplacement of the screw caused” Mr. Hoover’s permanent injury. Judge Moody awarded Hoover $725,000 for his damages and Vivian $25,000 for loss of consortium.

Hurt by Doctor or Hospital Error? Get Help With Your Case

Patients depend on doctors and other medical professionals for their health and well-being. When a patient puts their life in someone else’s hands, they deserve to receive the best possible care and treatment. However, too often patients find themselves the victims of medical negligence. Experts have estimated that more than 225,000 patients die each year from medical malpractice. Studies have shown that the majority of these deaths were easily preventable.

When a medical error that should have been avoided occurs and causes a patient injury, it is medical malpractice. Although medical malpractice can take many forms, some of the more common examples include:

  • Misdiagnosis of injury or illness
  • Failure to diagnose injury or illness
  • Medication errors
  • Failure to obtain an accurate patient history
  • Misreading of X-rays, echocardiograms, CT scans etc.
  • Surgical errors
  • Delays in treatment
  • Anesthesia errors
  • Failure to order necessary tests
  • Leaving medical equipment in a patient’s body
  • Infections
  • Use of defective medical equipment
  • Failures to communicate among health care providers
  • Unnecessary medical procedures

The attorneys at Heygood, Orr & Pearson have the experience and expertise to assist injured patients with their medical malpractice claims. Our attorneys have successfully represented numerous victims of medical malpractice.

Heygood, Orr & Pearson is AV-rated, the highest legal and ethical rating available from the leading law firm rating service. Our partners Michael Heygood, Jim Orr, and Eric Pearson are all Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Mr. Heygood and Mr. Orr are additionally Board Certified in Civil Trial Advocacy Law by the National Board of Trial Advocacy. Our partners been voted by their peers as “Super Lawyers” in the state of Texas for numerous years in a row.*

At Heygood, Orr & Pearson, we have the knowledge, experience and financial resources necessary to prosecute even the most complex medical negligence case. If you believe you or a loved one has suffered as a result of medical malpractice, please contact us for a free consultation to discuss your legal rights and options. You can reach us by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001, or by following the link to our free case evaluation form.


* Michael Heygood, James Craig Orr, Jr. and Eric Pearson were selected to the Super Lawyers List, a Thomson Reuters publication, for the years 2003 through 2014.

by Jay Pate

John “Jay” Pate is a licensed attorney who focuses his practice on complex tort litigation involving catastrophic personal injury, wrongful death, medical malpractice, and product liability cases.