A man whose right leg was amputated following a lawnmower accident has filed a $5.36 million lawsuit after he says he broke his remaining leg in a fall during a physical therapy session.
John Obermeyer of Brookings and his wife filed the lawsuit against Spectrum Orthotics & Prosthetics, Inc. in Medford, Coastal Physical Therapy in Brookings and employees of the companies. Filed in 2016, the case is pending in Jackson County Circuit Court. A May trial was canceled and will be rescheduled at a future date, court records show.
Lawyers for all parties involved said they could not comment on pending litigation.
In his lawsuit, Obermeyer alleges the prosthetic company did not install a knee-locking mechanism on his new right-leg prosthetic before he started physical therapy with the leg. He claims the prosthetic leg buckled, causing him to fall, and the physical therapy company did not have safeguards in place to stop his fall.
The lawsuit says Obermeyer suffered a tibial plateau fracture — a break at the top of the tibia in his lower left leg.
If the break is severe enough, a tibial plateau fracture can be a significant injury because of the important weight-bearing role of the top of the tibia, according to medical experts.
"As a result of the left tibia fracture, Plaintiff has suffered continuous pain, disability and impairment in the use of his left leg (which was his one healthy leg at the time of the subject incident)," Oberymeyer's lawyer wrote in the lawsuit.
Lawyers for Spectrum Orthotics & Prosthetics and Coastal Physical Therapy filed written responses to the lawsuit, arguing any injuries Obermeyer suffered can be traced back to the negligence of lawnmower dealer Curry Equipment on the Oregon Coast.
In 2012, Obermeyer was injured while operating a riding lawnmower, and as a result of his injuries, he had to have his right leg amputated above the knee. Curry Equipment failed to test or inspect the braking system or wheels of the lawnmower — a check that would have revealed the brake system was not operating properly. It also failed to instruct Obermeyer about the proper use of the mower on hills and what to do if the brake system failed, the lawyers said.
Obermeyer was also partially responsible because he operated the lawnmower in conditions beyond its capabilities and ignored warning stickers in plain view on the mower as well as instructions in the operating manual, the lawyers said.
Court records show Obermeyer filed a lawsuit against the lawnmower dealer in 2013. A 2015 trial was canceled after the case was settled. Court documents do not reveal whether there was a settlement payment or the amount of a payment.
Obermeyer is using the same lawyer from the lawnmower lawsuit in his case against the prosthetic maker and physical therapy business, court records show.
In written responses, lawyers for Spectrum Orthotics & Prosthetics and Coastal Physical Therapy addressed the issue of the prosthetic leg and the role it may have played in Obermeyer's fall.
Spectrum's lawyer denied the allegation that an employee advised Obermeyer to start physical therapy before the knee-locking mechanism was installed.
Coastal Physical Therapy's lawyer denied the claim the physical therapists failed to verify whether the prosthetic leg had a knee lock.
Obermeyer's attorney alleges he was instructed to try and walk using the prosthetic leg while holding onto parallel bars that were wobbly and loose. He wasn't wearing a belt device used to break falls, and the therapists didn't position themselves in a way to catch him if he fell.
The physical therapy company's lawyer denied those allegations, as well.
— Reach staff reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.