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Widower sued by University Medical Center


$10 Million Malpractice Case Pending Against University Medical Center

University Medical Center Disavows Liability For Nurses Involved In Lubbock Woman's Death

LUBBOCK, TX - April 9, 2001 - Miller Weisbrod, LLP, a Texas law firm that specializes in medical malpractice litigation, will file a first amended petition on Tuesday, April 10 seeking $10 million on behalf of the Harper family against a group of Lubbock doctors and nurses working at University Medical Center. The suit is based on the June 1999 death of 57-year-old Nelda Harper of Lubbock.

Mrs. Harper went into the hospital for a simple gall bladder surgery in April 1999 and died in June 1999 from improper treatment of sepsis (infection) due to a bile leak caused by the surgery.

In addition, the law firm is filing documents that respond to the hospital's counter claim for payment of bills totaling $111, 984.52 that were a direct result of the negligence of University Medical Center and its healthcare providers, including the doctors and nurses on staff at the hospital.

Acting on behalf of Mr. Harper and his children, Miller Weisbrod, LLP will file the petition in the 99th District Court of Lubbock County, Texas. The defendants are Charles Richard Baker, M.D.; Gowri Balachandar, M.D.; Sammy Anthony Deeb, M.D.;Donald David Dilworth, M.D.; John Aaron Millard, M.D.; Trent L. Proffitt, M.D.; Brian Joseph Norkiewicz, M.D.; Delma Irene Jara, M.D.; Melinda Dawn Burst, M.D.; Jane Doe, R.N.; Margaret Callison, R.N.; Lisa Michelle Daniels, R.T.; Linda Dudley, R.N.; and Melissa Kay Raspberry, R.T.

The individual nurses are being sued due to the hospital's governmental immunity.

The medical malpractice suit claims that the defendants were grossly negligent in their failure to timely and properly respond to laboratory and diagnostic reports, patient complaints and obvious clinical signs (including malnutrition and infection) that indicated a continuing bile duct leak following the gall bladder surgery. These inactions over a two months period during repeated hospitalizations resulted in Nelda Harper's untimely death.

Mrs. Harper had gall bladder surgery on April 6, 1999. Due to an unrecognized hole (in her cystic duct) during that surgery, Mrs. Harper gained 10 pounds of bile in her abdomen by the time of her first post-operative visit on April 14, 1999. She was readmitted to University
Medical Center on April 26, 1999 and discharged to go home on May 10, 1999 despite critically abnormal laboratory values for her electrolytes, total protein, albumin and potassium. She was rehospitalized on May 25, 1999 only to be sent home again on May 26, 1999 obviously malnourished, again with critically abnormal laboratory values including her albumin and potassium. Instead of paying attention to these lab values and Mrs. Harper's critical condition, one primary care nurse during Mrs. Harper's May 25-26, 1999 hospitalization labeled the patient as "whining...manipulative...and helpless". Sherri Innerarity, Ph.D., R.N., and an Assistant Professor for Clinical Nursing at the University of Texas at Austin, is a nursing expert who has reviewed the case. She states that those comments without any
narrative description of the actual behavior supporting those labels and in combination with the nurse's lack of assessment indicates that this nurse also violated ethical and moral standards of nursing care.

Mrs. Harper was admitted to University Medical Center again on June 15, 1999 and died in the hospital on June 28, 1999.

Les Weisbrod, managing partner of Miller Weisbrod, LLP, said, "It is abhorrent and unbelievable that University Medical Center, after being provided with expert reports showing that Mrs. Harper's death is due to the negligence of their nurse employees and the Texas Tech doctors who worked there, would sue the Harper family for $111,984.52 in hospital bills that were a direct result of their malpractice. This is really adding insult to injury. What is more amazing is that University Medical Center does not insure their nurse employees for malpractice and claims it will not pay any money on their behalf if a jury finds them negligent.

"We have been told in so many words it is the hospital's policy to leave the nurses 'hanging out' for personal financial ruin since the hospital has governmental immunity. Patients should know this hospital will take no responsibility if their nurses commit malpractice. This is a real hazard for people going to University Medical Center," Mr. Weisbrod continued.

Mr. Weisbrod also stated, "The death of a person in Lubbock should be worth the same as it is in Dallas or Houston. We are being told by the defendants' representatives that they do not believe a jury will award as much for a malpractice death in Lubbock."