Trial in the medical malpractice case of Gillins v. GardnerCivil No.150400088 (Fourth District Court for Utah County) starts tomorrow morning in Judge Derek Pullan’s courtroom in Provo.

In June 2012, 53-year-old Shari Gillins had lower back surgery by Dr. Paul Gardner (a neurosurgeon) at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center. She claims that the surgery caused her to suffer permanent damage to the lower part of her spinal cord, that she lost functioning in her legs, bowel, and bladder, and that she is now confined to a wheelchair with shooting pains in her legs.  Anesthesia was by Dr. Scott Larson.

Ms. Gillins’ experts have testified that her injury was caused by neurotoxicity from being given epidural anesthesia (bupivacaine/marcaine) for too long.These experts have testified that Dr. Larson breached the standard of care by not visiting her within the first 24 hours after the surgery to assess the safety of the epidural anesthesia she was being given. As for Dr. Gardner, these experts have testified that Ms. Gillins had a dural tear during the surgery that made her more susceptible to the dangers of epidural anesthesia (which include neurotoxicity), and that Dr. Gardner should have communicated this to the other pain-management providers, and not allowed her to be given the epidural anesthesia.  

As you might expect, the breach and causation claims are hotly disputed. Defendants’ experts have testified that Shari’s injuries are not the result of neurotoxicity, but rather the unfortunate result of inflammation that is an inherent risk in this type of surgery.

Her experts have testified that Ms. Gillins’ total economic damages are $1,263,764.  This includes $698,532 for the present value of future medical expenses, $353,783 for the present value of future lost earnings, and $211,449 for past lost wages. The non-economic damages cap is $450,000. Mr. Gillins has a loss of consortium claim subject to the same cap.

The claims against the anesthesiologist, Dr. Larson, were settled, leaving only those against Dr. Gardner for trial.

Opening statements are expected after the lunch break on the first day of trial, Wednesday, August 15th.


​Plaintiffs’ counsel: Mike Worel of Dewsnup King Olsen Worel Havas & Mortensen and Jeff Gooch of Jones Waldo Holbrook & McDonough.

Defendant’s counsel: Mike Miller and Kat Abke of Strong & Hanni. (Insurance carrier is UMIA.)

Trial is set for ten days, but I am told it should not take that long.