Jury awards man $5.5 million for shoulder injury caused by pain pump

Matthew Beale of Portland, Oregon, routinely participated in football, racquetball and golf, and he enjoyed coaching his son’s baseball teams. But a minor tear in his bicep tendon caused by throwing a football benched the 38-year-old father of four. His doctor recommended routine arthroscopic surgery during which he was prescribed an I-Flow pain pump to deliver pain medication directly to the wound site for up to 72 hours.

However, the anesthetic that dripped from the pain pump into Beale’s shoulder joint killed the cells that create cartilage. Within months, Beale’s cartilage was completely destroyed, causing him so much pain he couldn’t shake his clients’ hands or even pick up his baby without a shockwave of pain. He now faces a complete shoulder replacement that doctors say will likely not permanently resolve his chronic pain or enable him to regain his active lifestyle.

Beale’s doctor had no idea that the pain pump he had prescribed Beale was not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). He later discovered that 49 patients he had treated with the I-Flow pain pump had similar complications following surgery.

Last week, an Oregon jury awarded Beale $5.5 million for damages caused by the pain pump device that was not approved by the FDA. Attorneys representing Beale and his wife, Krista, said that I-Flow knowingly marketed its On-Q Painbuster device to orthopedic surgeons even though the FDA had repeatedly rejected the device for lack of safety data. Beale’s award includes $1.75 million in damages to Krista Beale.

The Beales were represented by Paulson Coletti law firm and Williams, Love, O’Leary & Powers, P.C. Attorneys with Beasley Allen Law Firm are working with Williams, Love, O’Leary & Powers, P.C. on all pain pump cases. Currently, Beasley Allen and the Williams firm have the largest number of pain pump clients, with approximately 60 cases filed, and intention to file additional cases.

In November 2009, the FDA issued a warning to doctors that it had never approved such use of pain pumps during shoulder surgery. But some worry that there are many more people suffering from similar debilitating injuries caused by pain pump devices, who may not even realize the pain pump is to blame. Getting the message out to physicians and patients is key to helping victims get the justice they deserve.