By Clair McFarland, General Assignment Reporter
The estate of a deceased Colorado surgeon is denying in federal court that he botched the spinal surgery of one of his Wyoming patients.
Saying her back surgery left her leg numb and dysfunctional, Cody resident Sylvia Hutton filed a lawsuit Nov. 17 against the estate of Dr. Clinton James Devin, as well as the Powell Valley Hospital District and Powell Valley Health Care.
Devin died Dec. 9, 2021, in a plane crash, a year after Hutton’s surgery. Though living in Colorado for the final years of his life, he was raised in Wyoming, according to his obituary.
Devin’s estate, represented by his wife Dr. Jessica Koch Devin, on Tuesday responded to Hutton’s lawsuit, saying Devin did not injure Hutton.
Hutton’s damages, the response says, “were not caused by negligence, but were the natural consequence of (her) condition.”
Hutton “may have failed to mitigate her damages,” the response adds, implying that “pre-existing conditions” were a factor.
Hutton is asking for more than $75,000 in damages, with the exact amount to be determined in court.
Four Months To Claim Losses
The Devin estate’s response says Hutton didn’t follow Colorado’s probate laws in filing her lawsuit.
Under Colorado law, the representative of a deceased person must post a notice to creditors in a newspaper at least three times, giving creditors a four-month deadline to stake their claims against the deceased person’s estate.
Creditors who fail to file a claim within the four-month deadline lose their chance to assert claims against the estate.
In her lawsuit, Hutton alleges that Devin should have prepared her better for surgery with six weeks of bone-strengthening medication or should not have considered her for surgery at all, because her bones had been weakened by a bout she had with breast cancer.
Devin acknowledged that Hutton’s bones were “extremely brittle,” the lawsuit claims.
It alleges that Devin implanted “multiple rods and screws into Ms. Hutton’s spine,” during which she showed signs of iatrogenic, or surgery-caused, nerve injury.
Devin noted that because of Hutton’s poor bone quality, it was “very hard to see the pedicles,” or bridges between vertebrae, as he implanted screws into her spine, the complaint says.
Hutton’s complaint says she had suffered from intermittent lower back pain for years prior to the surgery.
After hearing of Hutton’s complications, the complaint continues, Devin returned to Wyoming and performed another operation four days after the first.
Hutton claims the doctor misled her into thinking her post-operative complaints were a normal part of the surgery.
Hutton says she is still in pain, has limited mobility of her left leg, walks with a limp and has numbness down her calf and in her left foot.