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Jury begins deliberations in St. Luke's malpractice case

STILLWATER, Minn. -- A Washington County jury began deliberating at 1 p.m. today whether former Duluth neurosurgeon Stefan Konasiewicz was negligent in the care and treatment of Alan Meinershagen when he performed a brain biopsy on the 79-year-ol...

Dr. Stefan Konasiewicz
Former St. Luke's neurosurgeon Dr. Stefan Konasiewicz apparently has left his practices in Texas.

STILLWATER, Minn. -- A Washington County jury began deliberating at 1 p.m. today whether former Duluth neurosurgeon Stefan Konasiewicz was negligent in the care and treatment of Alan Meinershagen when he performed a brain biopsy on the 79-year-old man, who once operated a dairy farm near Proctor.

Meinershagen commenced a medical malpractice and negligence lawsuit against Konasiewicz and St. Luke's in February 2010. The suit claims that as a result of the surgery, Meinershagen suffered severe cerebral dysfunction and brain injury resulting in cognitive defects, speech impairment and inability to walk. The plaintiff alleges that Konasiewicz and St. Luke's are legally responsible.

The first question the jury is required to answer is whether Konasiewicz was negligent in his care and treatment of Meinershagen. If the answer to that question is yes, they were asked if the negligence was a direct cause of injury to the plaintiff. If yes again, they were asked to determine the amount of money that would fairly and adequately compensate Meinershagen.

In his closing argument, Richard Bosse, Meinershagen's attorney, suggested to jurors that they should award his client more than $2.1 million in damages, broken down as $672,342 for past health care, $722,400 for future pain disability and emotional distress and another $722,400 for future health care expenses. He said Meinershagen's nursing home costs $7,000 a month.

Under Minnesota law, as read to the jury by presiding Judge Heather Sweetland, "A specialist or neurosurgeon is not negligent solely because his efforts are unsuccessful. A failure of treatment is not negligence if the treatment was an accepted treatment based on the information the specialist or neurosurgeon had or reasonably should have had when the choice was made. A specialist or neurosurgeon must use reasonable care to get the information needed to exercise his or her professional judgment. An unsuccessful treatment chosen because a specialist or neurosurgeon did not use reasonable care would be negligence."

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Jurors were also told by the court that an error in diagnosis is not negligence if the diagnosis was an accepted diagnosis based on the information the specialist or neurosurgeon had or reasonably should have had when the diagnosis was made.

St. Paul attorney Mark Solheim, who represents Konasiewicz, and Duluth attorney Charles Bateman, who represents St. Luke's, both told jurors in their closing argument that their clients did not deviate from providing the accepted standard of care to their patient.

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