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Lama v. Borras

United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
16 F.3d 473 (1st Cir. 1994)



In 1985 in Puerto Rico, Roberto Romero Lama (Romero) (plaintiff) was suffering from severe back pain. He was referred to Dr. Pedro Borras (Borras) (defendant) at the Asociacion Hospital del Maestro, Inc. (hospital) (defendant). Borras believed Romero had a herniated disc and scheduled a surgery. Before the surgery, Borras did not prescribe bed rest or any other form of “conservative treatment.”After the operation, Romero’s symptoms returned a few days later. Borras ordered a second operation. In doing so, he did not order pre- or post-operative antibiotics. After the second operation, Romero’s bandages were described by nurses as “very bloody.” He also experienced localized pain at the incision; both signs of possible infection. A few days later, a nurse charted that Romero’s bandages were “soiled again.” These were the only records entered by nurses about Romero’s condition due to the hospital’s system of charting. Romero developed discitis—an infection of the space between discs—and experienced extreme pain. He was diagnosed by an attending physician and given antibiotics. However, he spent additional months in the hospital in recovery. Once recovered, Romero and his wife moved from Puerto Rico to Florida and brought a diversity tort action against Borras and the hospital on several grounds of negligence. The district court found Borras negligent in his failure to provide proper conservative medical treatment, his premature and otherwise improper discharge of Romero after surgery, his negligent performance of surgery, and his failure to provide proper management for Romero’s infection. The district court found the hospital liable for negligence for improper charting and mishandling of bandages and wound dressings. The jury awarded Romero $600,000 in damages. The hospital and Borras appealed.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Stahl, J.)

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