Jury issues malpractice lawsuit award By Eric Kopp, Okeechobee News A local six-member jury agreed to award the estate of a deceased contractor $1.75 million in a medical malpractice suit against a local medical group and a doctor who worked for the group. That Dec. 7 award was reduced to $875,000. The medical malpractice suit was filed against the Gateway Medical group and surgeon Richard A James by Michael McCann, the father of the late Gregory McCann. The suit was filed by Mr. McCann on behalf of his two granddaughters, who are ages 4 and 9. According to Mr. McCann's attorney, William A. Norton, the court reduced the jury's award because it was felt there was a degree of negligence on the part of Gregory McCann. "The court ruled my client was negligent for failure to keep a follow-up appointment," said Mr. Norton. "We argued that he was so sick he could not keep the appointment." According to a release from the law firm for which Mr. Norton works, Gregory McCann, then 39, fell down some concrete stairs in the home he was building on Sept. 11, 1998. He broke six ribs in the fall. He was then taken to Raulerson Hospital where he was treated by Dr. James. Gregory was discharged from the hospital on Sept. 14 and, according to the release, his pain was not being controlled by medication. He also had difficulty breathing, continued the release. The release states that Gregory and his father called the Gateway Medical Group several times on Sept. 16 and Sept. 17 to complain about the pain Gregory was suffering and that he was still having breathing difficulty. On. Sept. 22, Gregory had a follow-up visit with Dr. James. The doctor allegedly noted that his patient was suffering from rapid shallow breathing and was still in severe pain. The suit alleges that Dr. James did not take Gregory's vital signs, failed to get a chest X-ray and told his patient that his condition was to be expected. The doctor did give him a prescription for pain killers. On Sept. 30, Michael McCann found his son dead. According to the release, an autopsy found that Gregory had approximately 15 ounces of infected pus within the lining on his lung. "He died of septicemia as a result of the infection," said Mr. Norton, in a phone interview Tuesday. Phone calls seeking comment from attorney Bonnie Eyler were not returned. Ms. Eyler was the attorney for the Gateway Medical Group and Dr. James. The Gateway group had no comment on the lawsuit or verdict.