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A Van Buren County court decision to dismiss a hospital liability suit filed by a woman who had a sponge left inside her during an appendectomy, was overturned by the Michigan Court of Appeals.

In June 2004, the woman had surgery at South Haven Community Hospital. A count of surgical sponges used during the procedure came up short. An x-ray the following day displayed no foreign objects and she was sent home.

She returned to the hospital a few days later complaining of abdominal pain and dizziness, at which point she was told her incision was infected.

When doctors reopened her incision, they found the missing surgical sponge.

In December 2005 she filed a lawsuit in Van Buren County Circuit Court alleging negligence by Dr. Stephen T. Wysong, South Haven Community Hospital, Healthcare Midwest and others. The lower court decided that a jury would be unable to decide if her claims constituted ordinary negligence or medical malpractice.

The Court of Appeals overturned that decision, saying in a Nov. 13 ruling that a jury may be able to find in Small’s favor after hearing expert testimony. “A lay jury can determine whether defendants’ actions in this case — in essence, losing a surgical sponge during a surgical procedure and then discharging the patient without removing the sponge first — constitute ordinary negligence,” it said.

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