On February 8, 2008, Carol Sokol underwent podiatric surgery for bunions on both of her feet. Her doctor, a podiatrist, performed an Austin bunionectomy, a surgical procedure to excise, or remove, a bunion (a bony overgrowth in the foot that causes the big toe to curve outward).

Here is a short video showing an Austin bunionectomy with screw fixation, similar to the procedure Ms. Sokol underwent.

Unfortunately, Ms. Sokol’s condition was not improved – after surgery her big toe was unable to land on the ground, her second toe curled up like a claw and she could not walk normally. She sued, claiming malpractice.

The case went to trial in Manhattan in April 2012 and the jury found that the doctor had been negligent. Ms. Sokol, then 57 years old, was awarded pain and suffering damages in the sum of $900,000 ($300,000 past – four years, $600,000 future – 25 years).

The trial judge denied the defendant’s post-trial motion to set aside the future pain and suffering award as excessive

The defendant then appealed, again arguing that the damages award was excessive.

In Sokol v. Lazar (1st Dept. 2013), the future damages award has been reduced by $150,000 and now stands at $450,000. The past damages award was not challenged with the result that the total award approved by the appellate court is $750,000.

Here are the injury details:

  • two additional surgeries required by new physician (to correct the problem with the big toe not landing)
  • development of intractable plantar keratosis – calluses with a deep seated core that are often quite painful to pressure
  • development of cylindrical callus requiring excision
  • permanent foot pain and discomfort limiting exercise (cannot run) and walking
  • continued need for silicone sleeve to pad toes
  • likelihood of arthritic joint in the future causing more pain and requiring surgery to fuse the fifth metatarsal phalangeal joint

Inside Information:

  • The defense failed to call an expert so was unable to refute the claims of plaintiff’s expert, Sloan Gordon, D.P.M., as to prognosis.
  • In summations, plaintiff’s attorney asked the jury to award $250,000 for past damages and at least $500,000 for future damages; defense counsel made no suggestions as to damages until the appeal when he argued that the future damages award should be reduced to $100,000.