Former Miami Dolphins wide receiver O.J. McDuffie sued team physician John Uribe on a medical malpractice theory claiming that Dr. Uribe acted below the standard of care when he treated him in 1999 for an injured toe and, as a direct result, McDuffie’s football career ended prematurely.
The injury, known as turf toe, came on Nov. 21, 1999. Dr. Uribe injected the toe to numb the pain, retaped the toe and sent the plaintiff back into the game without making a diagnosis. In the days after the injury, Uribe sent McDuffie for MRI examinations of the toe. Dr. Uribe diagnosed completely ruptured ligaments in the toe from a review of the films, yet neither the plaintiff nor the Dolphins’ medical staff were told of this diagnosis. Dr. Uribe informed the plaintiff that he would heal without incident and have a complete recovery.
McDuffie continued to play, with Dr. Uribe injecting the plaintiff’s toe, until the Dolphins, for unrelated reasons, hired a new team physician. The new doctor looked at the toe and the MRI and immediately sent McDuffie to a specialist, who recommended surgery to repair the ruptured ligament.
After two surgeries, McDuffie’s toe prevented him from playing and ended his career. The plaintiff had suffered joint surface damage during the time between the injury and surgery that could not be repaired. McDuffie was officially released from the Dolphins in February 2002.
McDuffie was awarded a $11.5 million verdict in compensatory damages.
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