Law & Medicine

Negligent use of steroids


The patient developed neurologic symptoms, and lumbar puncture yielded green pus caused by methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. He went on to develop arachnoiditis, which left him with impotence, incontinence, and excruciating pain. His lawsuit contended the injection needle had passed through an infected edematous area, causing meningitis and arachnoiditis. Before the case went to trial, the patient took his life because of unremitting pain.

In March 2014, a Johnson County jury found the doctor 75% at fault and the clinic 25% at fault and awarded damages, which were reduced to $1.67 million because Kansas caps noneconomic damages at $250,000. The court rejected the defendants’ argument that the trial judge improperly instructed the jury it could find liability only if negligence “caused” rather than merely “contributed to” the patient’s death, holding that “... one who contributes to a wrongful death is a cause of that death as contemplated by the wrongful death statute.”

Dr. Tan is professor emeritus of medicine and former adjunct professor of law at the University of Hawaii. This article is meant to be educational and does not constitute medical, ethical, or legal advice. For additional information, readers may contact the author at [email protected] .


1. Hill v. Squibb Sons, E.R, 592 P.2d 1383 (Mont. 1979).

2. Nash JJ et al, Medical malpractice and corticosteroid use. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2011; 144:10-5.

3. Buckley L. et al, Glucocorticoid-Induced Osteoporosis. N Engl J Med 2018; 379:2547-56.

4. Zarin’s Jury Verdict: Review and Analysis. Article ID 40229, Philadelphia County.

5. Robbin Smith et al. v. The Surgery Center at Lone Tree, 2015-CV-30922, Douglas County District Court, Colo. Verdict for plaintiff, March 23, 2017.

6. Burnette v. Kimber L. Eubanks, M.D., & Paincare, P.A., 379 P.3d 372 (Kan. Ct. App. 2016).


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