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Tarrant County Jury decides in favor of Fort Worth family

FORT WORTH, TX - (July 11, 2002) - A Tarrant County jury, in a unanimous decision, found Brett Landon Cochrum, M.D.; John E. Staniland, M.D.; and Scott Mason Pratho, M.D. guilty of medical malpractice negligence in the death of Reynaldo Zapata, a 49-year old Fort Worth man.

The jury awarded in favor of Fort Worth residents Lupe Zapata, widow, and his children for the death of her husband and compensation for his pain and suffering and the family's loss of Mr. Zapata's love, support and counsel.

Dr. Cochrum and Dr. Staniland were each found to be 35% responsible and Dr. Pratho was found to be 30% responsible in the negligent failure to diagnose and treat Mr. Zapata's coronary artery disease before it lead to his deadly heart attack.

On May 19, 1997, Reynaldo Zapata went to the hospital complaining of neck and chest pain. Dr. Cochrum, an emergency room physician, diagnosed him as suffering from an upper respiratory infection and treated him for that. Mr. Zapata returned to the ER the next day, May 20, 1997, again complaining of neck and chest pain. Although an EKG was performed and the computer showed a probable heart attack, Dr. Pratho disagreed with the computer's report and sent Mr. Zapata home with a diagnosis of nonspecific neck pain and a recommendation that he be evaluated by a family doctor for possible neck problems. In fact, information concerning the computer interpretation and results were withheld Mr. Zapata.

On May 21, 1997, Mr. Zapata went to Dr. Staniland, a family doctor, again complaining of burning pain in his throat, neck, chest and right arm. Again, despite risk factors for coronary artery disease as well as evidence of abnormal EKGs from prior hospital visits, Dr. Staniland made no referral for stress testing or any other cardiologic examination.

After returning from work on May 27, 1997, Mr. Zapata collapsed and fell to the floor unconscious. He was brought to the hospital in full cardiac arrest and was pronounced dead the same day.

"This case is a clear example of how economic incentives for emergency room physicians encourage ER doctors to see more patients in less time," said David Norton, partner, Miller Weisbrod, LLP, who represented the Zapata family. "Doctors must be more thorough and learn to care more for their patients and less for the dollar. This death was preventable if the correct protocols, tests and consultation had been obtained."

Mr. Norton was assisted by Miller Weisbrod, LLP attorneys William Newman and Connie McNamire, a nurse-attorney.

Miller Weisbrod, LLP is one of the country's preeminent law firms devoted to litigating medical malpractice, pharmaceutical product liability and medical device cases. The firm has tried or settled many successful jury verdicts and settlements on behalf of their clients. Managing partner Les Weisbrod has obtained more medical malpractice punitive damage awards for clients than any other attorney in the United States.