Posted on Jun 18, 2006
Jury awards $475,000 in death after surgery
By William C. Lhotka
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
A jury deliberated more than 10 hours over two days before awarding $475,000 on Thursday to the husband of a woman from St. Peters who died 10 days after colon surgery.
The jury in St. Louis County Circuit Court heard testimony for more than a week. It found, primarily, in favor of Wayne White of St. Peters, the husband of the late Genevieve White, 69, who died on May 17, 2004.
Jurors found against Dr. Neal Holzum, the doctor who authorized White's release from Barnes-Jewish St. Peters Hospital on May 14. But they absolved the doctor who performed the colon surgery on May 7 of any negligence. The hospital was not named in the suit.
White was rushed by ambulance back to the hospital a day after her discharge and later died from internal complications involving bleeding in her colon.
Genevieve Nichols, the attorney for White, said Holzum was negligent in releasing Genevieve White from the hospital because her white blood cell count was, at times, too high.
"This woman was not appropriate for discharge," said Nichols, who asked in her closing arguments for $2.5 million. "I don't think they were being careful."
Nichols cited the testimony about the high white blood cell count by an expert, Dr. Paul Gryska of Newton, Mass.
The defense criticized Gryska as a doctor-for-hire who sides with the plaintiffs in nearly every case. Defense experts testified that Holzum's actions met the appropriate standard of care.
Peter Spataro, Holzum's lawyer, said White wanted to go home after seven days "because she felt better."
"What is there objectively that we can look at to say, 'Oh, God, they should have caught that'?" Spataro asked rhetorically. He said Genevieve White's vital signs were good and her white blood cell count had improved from the day before.
The jury awarded $500,000 but found the victim, her husband and daughter 5 percent at fault for failing to adequately describe White's condition to doctors and nurses. That reduced the total to $475,000.