Jury selection still ongoing in med-mal case

David Yates May 2, 2007, 1:00pm

After two full days of questioning, lawyers still have a pool of more than 50 potential jurors to narrow down before beginning a medical malpractice trial in Judge Gary Sanderson's 60th District Court.

The med-mal suit alleges the lack of action of several Memorial Hermann Baptist Orange Hospital medical personnel ultimately led to the death of 36-year-old Richard Bernard Salter. The plaintiff is seeking $3 million in damages.

The plaintiff's lawyers have used a substantial amount of time during the voire dire process to question the potential jurors about their media viewing and reading habits.

"If you believe the media, you are going to be misinformed," plaintiffs' attorney Steve Davis said.

Davis' partner, John Davis, especially warned jurors to stay clear of the Southeast Texas Record, the Beaumont-based paper which he said is written "by people in Chicago who don't live here (Jefferson County)."

The trial will center on Salter's family's claim that Dr. Marshall Packard, the Triangle Hospital Care Group and the Baptist Hospital of Southeast Texas (Baptist Orange) breached the ordinary standard of care by failing to adequately observe, assess, diagnose, treat and transport Salter.

According to the plaintiffs' seventh amended petition, Salter, 36, sought emergency medical treatment at the Orange Hospital on Feb. 1, 2003. He was diagnosed with dehydration and R/O sepsis and held for four hours before being transported to the telemetry unit, where he was attended to by Dr. Packard.

John Davis said Salter's wife, Terrie � a nurse at Baptist Orange at the time of the incident � was at home and pregnant with their now 2-year-old son on Feb 1, 2003. She says her husband was ill, took his vitals and sent him to the hospital with a note.

The suit says Salter went into respiratory distress and was in imminent danger of cardiopulmonary arrest; however, the doctor and nurses failed to call a "code or provide proper treatment."

Packard transferred Salter to the Intensive Care Unit. During the transport, he suffered cardiopulmonary arrest.

"Nurses did not offer CPR," the suit said. "Upon arrival at the ICU, the nursing staff called a code. Resuscitation measures were attempted but Richard Salter died."

John Davis said Salter died from fluid in his lungs.

The family alleges Packard was grossly negligent while caring for Salter, and that the hospital is liable to suit under the doctrine of respondeat superior.

Respondeat superior, Latin for "let the master answer," is a legal doctrine which states that an employer is responsible for employee actions.

"The breaches by defendant's nurses were willful and reckless and were the proximate cause of (Salter's) death," the suit said.

Defense attorney Griffin Vincent says the nurses "took care of (Salter as one of their own) and that there was no way they could have predicted or prevented the tragedy.

The family claims the Texas Wrongful Death Act entitles them to recover damages for pecuniary loss; termination of spouse/spouse, parent/child and child/parent relationship; and mental anguish.

Terrie, Richard, Mary and Richard Salter (Jr.) are represented by attorneys Steven and John Davis and James Bromberg of Davis & Davis, Attorneys at Law.

The defense is represented by Houston attorneys Vincent and Christine York.

Case No. B176-490

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