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Archive for Thursday, June 21, 2007

Jury to deliberate today in LMH civil suit

Patient claims hospital’s negligence led to amputation of leg

June 21, 2007

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Lawrence resident James Combest sits in his kitchen eating dinner Tuesday evening after a long day spent in court. A jury will deliberate today on whether to award Combest nearly half a million dollars in a civil suit against Lawrence Memorial Hospital. Combest claimed that the hospital was responsible for negligence that led to the amputation of his left leg in 2001.

Lawrence resident James Combest sits in his kitchen eating dinner Tuesday evening after a long day spent in court. A jury will deliberate today on whether to award Combest nearly half a million dollars in a civil suit against Lawrence Memorial Hospital. Combest claimed that the hospital was responsible for negligence that led to the amputation of his left leg in 2001.

Trial underway for injured former city worker

Trial is underway in Douglas County District Court for a former Lawrence city employee injured in a March, 2001 accident. Enlarge video

A Douglas County jury will deliberate this morning on whether to award nearly half a million dollars to a former city employee who claimed that Lawrence Memorial Hospital was responsible for negligence that ultimately resulted in the amputation of his left leg.

Attorneys for James Combest and LMH gave their closing arguments late Wednesday. After roughly 15 to 20 minutes of deliberation, jurors elected to return today to resume their work.

Combest's leg was severely injured in March 2001 when he was struck by a car and later pinned underneath a trash truck on West 24th Street. He was life-flighted to Kansas University Hospital and spent two weeks in intensive care. Seizures and a severe infection developed, but by July 2001, it had begun to heal, his primary physician, Dr. Stephen Munns, an orthopedic surgeon at KU, said in videotaped testimony.

Combest and his attorney, Michael Shunk, claimed that when a hospital volunteer pushed him in a wheelchair to a pre-operative surgery area in November 2001, part of his leg came into contact with a wall that broke his kneecap and furthered the infection.

Combest was undergoing surgery to have a catheter removed that had administered antibiotics to cure the infection.

It is that incident, Shunk argued, that set into motion a chain of events contributing to the amputation of Combest's leg in December 2001. Two LMH nurses took the stand: Teresa Dillon and Kathy Ramirez, who prepared Combest for the operation.

"He had a loose dressing on (the leg) that needed to be changed before surgery," Dillon said. "It looked like it was ready to fall off and needed to be changed."

Dillon changed the dressing and noted that Combest had mentioned that the volunteer had bumped his leg while in the wheelchair.

"He really didn't make a big deal out of that at that moment," Dillon recalled. "Our job was to get him ready for surgery ..."

The nurse told the court that she didn't recall Combest telling her he was in pain. But in a deposition she gave two years ago, Dillon said that he told her he was in pain before the removal of the catheter.

LMH attorney Richard Merker argued that something other than the wheelchair bump caused such a severe medical condition and that Combest took too long to report the injury to a doctor. He also tried to establish that the severity of the injury and infection would have contributed to the chance of him losing his leg anyway.

"What effect did the infection process have to do with the ultimate removal of the leg?" Merker asked Dr. David Clymer, an LMH physician who did not treat Combest, but reviewed his records before taking the stand.

Clymer answered that atrophy and bone weakening already present were what contributed to the amputation.

Under Kansas law, damages sought for pain and suffering are limited to $250,000. Combest has roughly $166,000 in medical expenses from November 2001 to the present, Shunk said. Combest hopes to receive a total of $461,650 in damages.

The jury will reconvene at 8:30 a.m. today.

Comments

ctutgo 7 years, 6 months ago

"Staff" infections are actually "staph" infections, short for staphylococcus. This is a common bacteria found in clinical settings. I believe the most common is Staph aureus (not sure,) which can be resistent to antibiotics. When you think of all the pathogens that are brought into a hospital, it can be frightening. Extreme precautions to prevent the spread of nosocomial (hospital or clinic aquired) infections are mandated and strictly enforced. The best way to prevent the spread is by handwashing or, even more effective, the use of alcohol based hand cleansers (which don't have to be rinsed.) These cleansers are in every patient room and are used before and after contact with every patient. Unfortunately, there are those who don't adhere to these strict guidelines, that is human nature I suppose. As for this case, it appears this man had the infection already. I personally don't see how the "bump" caused more damage.

RL 7 years, 6 months ago

ctutgo- Those "hand cleansers" are not better than proper handwashing. They simply improve conditions by increasing the number of people who would otherwise not wash their hands before or after contact with patients or pathogens. "C. diff" is a problem in hospitals as well, and it, my friend, isn't killed by those hand cleansers.

Confrontation 7 years, 6 months ago

Perhaps hand sanitizer is the last thing we should be giving doctors and nurses:

http://www.hoax-slayer.com/hand-sanitizer-warning.shtml

Susan Mangan 7 years, 6 months ago

"The testimony of the nurse must be discredited. She has lied under oath, and she can no longer be believed."

Good Lord! Isn't it just possible that she is absolutely telling the truth, but since she's seen, literally, thousands of patients in the interim that she can't remember him telling her that? I have known a couple of nurses called to testify in cases involving patients from several years prior (they have never been a party to the suit...just "witnesses" to events) and, after just a few weeks it's nearly impossible to remember a patient unless something really extraordinary happened with them. Saying you're in pain hardly qualifies if you're a surgery nurse. I'm guessing many, if not most, of your patients would report that. To say that you specifically remember someone saying they were in pain, almost 6 years ago, would be the lie. That is why careful documentation is crucial. That's the only thing you have to fall back on and use as evidence years later if you're called for a case. She may have documented it, but does not specifically remember it. Her comment is absolutely truthful under those circumstances. She wasn't sued for negligence...geeze, there are a lot of suspicious people out there.

Homey 7 years, 6 months ago

"A Douglas County District Court jury determined Thursday that Lawrence Memorial Hospital had no negligence in a civil lawsuit filed by a former city employee.

James Combest had sued the hospital for $461,650 in damages, alleging negligence by LMH ultimately resulted in the amputation of his left leg.

But the jury determined the hospital was not negligent in its care.

"I believe that this really is the correct result," said Richard Merker, LMH attorney. "We absolutely did not believe that what happened resulted in the loss of his leg."

Combest's attorney, Michael Shunk, said his client does not plan to appeal."

bytheway 7 years, 6 months ago

This is a total disappointment to hear James had filed a case against the hospital. We worked with him for such a long time. He is such a nice guy so this is a total slap in the face. If the bump was so bad, I honestly think the surgeons would have taken notice. They probably would have dictated it in their surgical notes.

erod0723 7 years, 6 months ago

"The nurse told the court that she didn't recall Combest telling her he was in pain. But in a deposition she gave two years ago, Dillon said that he told her he was in pain before the removal of the catheter."

The testimony of the nurse must be discredited. She has lied under oath, and she can no longer be believed.

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