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Verdicts & Settlements

Plaintiffs Say University Let Vet Perform Surgical Duties

— March 22, 2021

University of Missouri settles knee surgery allegations.

The University of Missouri has settled knee surgery personal injury and false advertising claims with 22 plaintiffs for a total of $16.2 million.  Many of the plaintiffs were minors and filed lawsuits from 2018 to 2020 over the university’s “BioJoint” operations which were introduced by two of its employees, orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Stannard and veterinarian Dr. James Cook.

The procedure involves restoration process that includes replacing parts of the knee with cadaver bones or cartilage.  Some of the plaintiffs indicated that BioJoint was marketed as an alternative to standard knee replacement surgery.  They also alleged “Stannard did not advise plaintiffs that the surgery he was proposing has a failure rate as high as 86%.”  They were made to believe it had a much higher success rate, and court documents argued that BioJoint was “experimental” and “unproven” and “sometimes left patients requiring follow-up surgeries and even total knee replacements.”

Plaintiffs Say University Let Vet Perform Surgical Duties
Photo by Gustavo Fring from Pexels

What’s more, the plaintiffs took issue with how Cook was presented.  They alleged Stannard was negligent “for allowing Cook [an animal vet] to perform parts of the Mizzou BioJoint surgeries on plaintiffs without appropriate medical direction and supervision.”  Some plaintiffs stated they “did not know when they underwent the procedures that Cook was not a medical doctor or a licensed physician.”  In at least five, they contend he was listed on their medical records as “surgeon – other.”

In a filing by the defendants, they responded Cook was identified as an “orthopedic technologist – surgery certified” and that he “joined the surgery team for the majority of such surgeries performed by Dr. Stannard.”  In another, the defendants’ attorneys contended Stannard and Cook had “no obligation to tell patients that he was neither a licensed physician at any time prior to the operations because surgery commonly includes persons…who are not licensed physicians.”

“Many new medical techniques are tested on animals before they get to humans, so veterinarians may be involved in pioneering medical research,” explained Dr. Patrick McCulloch, vice chairman of Houston Methodist’s orthopedic surgery department. “It’s not uncommon to have vets as part of your research team, but it would be uncommon to have them as part of your clinical patient care team.”

“You [just] have to be licensed as a physician to perform surgery on a human being,” added Jeff Howell, executive vice president of the Missouri State Medical Association.

The defendants denied all allegations and settled without admission of liability or negligence.

Michelle Mello, a Stanford University professor of law and medicine, said of the deal, “On a per capita basis, that seems like high damages, so there is something going on that’s not great for the university.”

However, Jonathan Curtright, CEO of University of Missouri Health Care, responded, “We are pleased to resolve this litigation.  Providing safe, quality care is always our top priority, and we remain committed to excellence in restoring joint health and function for eligible patients.  We are confident in the expertise and dedication of our staff and the innovative, science-based services offered by the Missouri Orthopaedic Institute and the Mizzou BioJoint program.”


University of Missouri pays $16 million to settle lawsuits over knee surgeries

Mizzou enters $16 million settlement of suits over knee surgeries involving veterinarian

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