NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Argued September 10, 2013
On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Camden County, Docket No. L-6123-08.
Richard A. Asselta argued the cause for appellants (Capizola, Pancari, Lapham & Fralinger, attorneys; Michael D. Capizola, on the briefs).
Sharon K. Galpern argued the cause for respondents Carl D. Regillo, M.D., and Associated Retinal Surgeons, P.A. (Stahl & DeLaurentis, P.C., attorneys; Ms. Galpern, on the brief).
Before Judges Fisher and Espinosa.
Plaintiffs Arline and James Field filed a medical malpractice complaint against various defendants that proceeded to trial against defendants Carl D. Regillo and his medical practice, Associated Retinal Surgeons, P.A. At the close of their evidence, defendants moved for dismissal pursuant to Rule 4:37-2(b). The motion was granted by the trial court and plaintiffs appeal from that order. We affirm.
Dr. Regillo performed a vitrectomy upon plaintiff after diagnosing her with a macular pucker. He was assisted in the surgery by Eric Chen, M.D., a fellow in a retinal surgery program operated by Retina Diagnostic & Treatment Associates, LLC. The day after surgery, plaintiff was unable to see out of her right eye, other than hand movements. Her visual acuity was reduced to 1 over 200.
A vitrectomy entails three microscopic incisions inside a patient's eye for the purpose of removing the gel inside. Plaintiff's expert, Adam P. Beck, M.D., a board-certified ophthalmologist, testified that anesthesia is necessary for this procedure and the method selected here was a retrobulbar block, which was performed by Dr. Chen. Plaintiff does not challenge the decision to use this form of anesthesia.
Dr. Beck explained that, in a retrobulbar block, the doctor "numb[s] the patient's eye by placing a needle under the globe between the bony piece of the orbit and the eye, the actual eyeball, and . . . insert[s] a needle back and inject[s] fluid, [which] numbs the nerve innervating the eye." Dr. Beck testified to a reasonable degree of medical probability that "the optic nerve in the right eye was struck by the retrobulbar needle during the . . . anesthesia block, " and that this caused the loss of vision in plaintiff's right eye. Dr. Beck also testified that Dr. Chen deviated from the applicable standard of care when he struck the optic nerve in administering the retrobulbar block.
Dr. Beck found no fault in the surgery performed by Dr. Regillo. Nonetheless, he found Dr. Regillo responsible for plaintiff's loss of vision because he was the attending surgeon. On cross-examination, he testified as follows:
Q. . . . [T]here was, in your opinion, one deviation from accepted practice which was the way the ...