Posted on Dec 03, 2006
Jury awards family nearly $2 million
By Calen McKinney, Staff Writer
It took a jury of six men and six women about three hours to find Taylor Regional Hospital and one of its former physicians partially responsible for the death of a Campbellsville woman's husband.
The jury awarded the man's family nearly $2 million in damages.
Christine Moran, individually and on behalf of her children, Rachel, Courtney and Jordan, claimed that Dr. Milton S. Jackson, an emergency room physician at TRH, and the hospital were negligent in their care and treatment of Moran's late husband, James.
Circuit Court Judge Doughlas M. George began Moran's trial last Monday at about 8:30 a.m. The trial ended Thursday afternoon.
After deliberating for nearly three hours, the jury decided that Jackson and TRH failed to provide the standard of care expected from an emergency room physician and a nursing staff. The jury then found that doing so was a substantial factor in James Moran's death.
The jury also found that James Moran himself failed to act as a "reasonably prudent individual" in regard to his health care, which they also found to be a factor in his death.
In all, the jury awarded James Moran's estate $3,097.54 for medical expenses, $9,289 for funeral expenses, $1,008,430 for the loss of his ability to earn income and $300,000 each for Rachel, Courtney and Jordan Moran's loss of their father.
The jury was asked to determine the percentage each party was at fault. They found Jackson to be 60 percent responsible, TRH to be 20 percent responsible and James Moran himself 20 percent responsible.
Therefore, according to Moran's attorney, Robert L. Elliott of Lexington, Moran's estate and the children will receive 80 percent of the $1,920,816.54 - or $1,536,653.23 - awarded by the jury.
Elliott filed the suit in Taylor Circuit Court on Aug. 19, 2004.
Moran's lawsuit alleged that her husband became Jackson's patient on Oct. 25, 2003, and on Nov. 6 the hospital was negligent in instructing her husband not to return to the hospital for treatment.
As a result of the hospital's alleged negligence, the lawsuit alleged, Moran sustained injures that led to his death on Nov. 6, 2003.
Taylor Regional Hospital denied any wrongdoing, according to a response filed on Sept. 23, 2004, by its attorney Thomas N. Kerrick of Bowling Green, as did Jackson in a Sept. 13, 2004, answer filed by his attorney John G. Prather of Somerset.
In Jackson's response to the allegations, he alleged James Moran "was himself negligent in failing to reasonably follow medical advice."
TRH, Elliott and Kerrick declined to comment for this story. Prather did not return phone calls to the News-Journal office.
In his opening statement, Lexington attorney Trey Moore, one of Elliott's law firm's partners, said evidence would show that Jackson departed from standard emergency room physician care by not ruling out that James Moran had heart disease when he came to the emergency room for treatment of chest pain and arm numbness on Oct. 25, 2003.
Moore said evidence would also show that TRH emergency room nurses also departed from standard of care when they failed to tell Moran to bring her husband to the emergency room on Nov. 6, 2003, when she called the hospital and told a nurse her husband was experiencing pains similar to the ones he had about two weeks earlier.
When receiving treatment in the emergency room, Moore said, Jackson administered several tests, including nitroglycerin spray, a "GI cocktail" and Protonix, attempting to pinpoint what was causing James Moran's pain.
After the GI cocktail subsided his pain, Moore said, Jackson determined that James Moran had gastroesophageal reflux disease, gave him a prescription for Protonix and sent him home without any further instructions.
Before leaving, Moore said, Jackson told the Morans that he had good news for them, that James Moran's pain wasn't from his heart.
"He told [the Morans] that he had a healthy heart," Moore said.
In his closing statement, Elliott told the jury that Jackson had the opportunity to catch a medical problem before it became serious.
"Milton Jackson missed that opportunity," he said. "James Moran died because of that."
Elliott said a witness told the jurors that hearts are too good to die and only die when there's no one looking out for them.
"Help didn't come," he said. "He was told he had a healthy heart."
Elliott said the signs of heart trouble were there, but Jackson failed to recognize them.
"Rachel, Courtney and Jordan's hearts are broken," he said. "I ask you to find it in your hearts and heads to listen to the evidence and follow the law and render a decision in her favor."
In his opening statement, Prather said the case is about medical judgment and the passing of time.
When James Moran first came to the TRH emergency room, Jackson saw him quickly and performed five tests that all came back normal. Prather said Jackson asked James Moran's family history and found nothing indicating a history of heart disease.
As far as Jackson telling the Morans that James Moran had a healthy heart, Prather said, Jackson denies ever doing so.
"As human beings, we remember what we want to hear," he said.
Prather said James Moran was released from TRH with instructions to take Protonix, stick to a bland diet and contact his family physician if there were any other problems.
Prather said the only definitive test to determine whether someone has heart disease is a cardiac catheterization.
In his opening statement, Kerrick told the jury that TRH is only involved in Moran's lawsuit because of the phone call Mrs. Moran made to the TRH emergency room on Nov. 6, 2003.
Kerrick said the TRH nurse told her they aren't allowed to give medical advice over the phone, but that she could give her husband some Mylanta. Kerrick said the nurse urged Moran to bring her husband to the emergency room.
In his closing statement, Prather said the jury had heard from expert witnesses who agreed that Jackson met the expected standard of care for an emergency physician.
"It's wrong to base a decision on sympathy," he said. "I ask [the jury] to make a decision based on evidence."
"Doctors rely on their background and judgment and do tests to try and put the pieces together and do [what they can]," he said. "Yet some people die. Some die the day after they leave the hospital. Some die at the doctor's office. James Moran died 12 days later at home."
Prather said if Jackson had known James Moran had heart disease, he would have sent the man to a cardiologist.
"[We] can't bring James Moran back," he said. "We don't honor his memory by doing something just to help his family."