Doc cleared in trial over patient's fall from bed

David Yates Apr. 5, 2007, 3:00am

A Jefferson County jury found a Port Arthur doctor did nothing wrong by not ordering restraints on an elderly patient.

The children of the late Trinidad Dovalina filed a medical malpractice suit against Dr. Joseph Badlissi. The family claims Dovalina was overmedicated following surgery at Park Place Medical Center in 2002, and on the night of Jan. 10, 2002, fell from her hospital bed, fracturing her hip.

The plaintiffs claimed that Badlissi, one of four doctors who attended to Dovalina or consulted on her treatment, should have placed Dovalina in restraints.

The trial began on April 2 in the Jefferson County 60th District Court with Judge Gary Sanderson presiding.

On Wednesday, April 4, 2007, the jury was asked to conclude if the negligence, if any, of Badlissi, gave way to the plaintiff's injury. It took the jurors less than 30 minutes to deliberate and arrive at the unanimous verdict that Badlissi was not negligent.

The series of incidents began on Jan. 5, 2002, when Dovalina was admitted to Park Place Medical Center (now the Medical Center of Southeast Texas) where she underwent an arteriogram and stent placement of the lower extremity.

Hospital records submitted as evidence also show Dovalina suffered from several medical conditions, including diabetes, kidney failure, peripheral artery disease, cognitive heart failure, neuropathy and hyper tension.

According to the hospital's records, the attending physicians for Dovalina called in Dr. Badlissi as a consultant to manage Dovalina's diabetes while she was recovering.

Badlissi, a Board Certified endocrinologist who has been practicing in Jefferson County for more than 30 years, had been managing her diabetes since 1998 and was fairly acquainted with Dovalina and her family.

Victor Dovalina testified that following the surgery, his mother was acting "crazy," and was talking to dead relatives, grasping at things in the air and attempting to get out of bed when left alone.

The son said he kept complaining about his mother's condition to the nurses and any doctors available.

Badlissi testified that when he witnessed Dovalina in her confused condition on Jan. 9, around 10 a.m., he reasoned she was overly sedated and put a hold on her medications. He noted the medication hold on Dovalina's chart and left without verbally notifying the three other doctors monitoring her.

According to the hospital's records and Badlissi's testimony, the attending physicians, along with the other doctors, noted that the patient's confusion was most likely due to the narcotics.

"Everybody was on the same page," Badlissi's testified, adding that he did not order the patient restrained because restraints "are a last resort in today's medicine" and can often cause more harm than good. He also said that he did not call in a sitter because confused patients respond better to family members than strangers, and that Victor Dovalina was staying in the room with his mother.

Victor Dovalina testified that Badlissi never communicated the importance of having a vigilant family member watch over his mother. Although in the room, Victor Dovalina had fallen asleep at the time his mother fell from the bed at 1 a.m.

Other evidence was offered suggesting the bedrail was not up all the way.

While questioning Victor Davolina, Badlissi's defense attorney, David McTaggart, presented a nurse's note written after the injury stating that the "son feels really bad" because he neglected to put the right-side bedrail up all the way.

Victor Davolina testified that he never said that he left the bedrail down and that the nurse was lying in order to conceal the hospital's negligence.

All three siblings testified that they do not blame the physician who prescribed the medications or the hospital � a major contradiction to the plaintiff's original petition.

The plaintiff's original petition, which was filed on June 30, 2003, lists only the Park Place Medical Center and Beaumont Hospital Holdings, Inc. as defendants.

Six months later the petition was amended to include Dr. Richard Bowling, Dr. Hervy Hiner and Badlissi. The final amended petition named only Badlissi as defendant.

Testimony showed that for nearly two years following the injury, Dovalina continued to see Badlissi for treatment on a regular basis. During that time, neither the patient nor her family mentioned any wrong doing on Badlissi's part or that they were contemplating suing him.

Dovalina's children told The Record that the suit was amended on the advice of their attorney, Lancelot Olinde Jr. of Olinde & Iglesias.

"I took excellent care of (Dovalina)," Badlissi told The Record. "Those people should have thanked me for keeping their mother alive for so many years, not the other way around."

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