Woman seeks $5 million from local docs, hospital after eye removal

Marilyn Tennissen Aug. 21, 2007, 11:00am

A Beaumont woman is seeking more than $5 million in damages from two local doctors and a hospital after an infection resulted in the loss of her left eye.

Georgia Black filed a medical malpractice lawsuit on Aug. 20 in Jefferson County District Court against Christus Hospital St. Elizabeth, Dr. Shungman Kirby Lee and Dr. Eric Adam Mark.

According to the plaintiff's original petition, Black had been under the care of Dr. Lee for several years for chronic kidney disease, diabetic nephropathy and high blood pressure.

On July 11, 2005, Black went to the emergency room of Christus Hospital St. Elizabeth in Beaumont for the pre-existing medical conditions and was then admitted to the hospital.

The suit says that she consulted with Dr. Lee, who advised her to remain at the hospital and continue treatment with Dr. Mark, attending physician.

"Plaintiff, Georgia Black incurred endophthalmitis of her left eye while a patient at Christus St. Elizabeth Hospital as a result of a catheter being placed in her neck of the instruction of her attending physician, defendant Eric Adams Mark, M.D.," the petition states.

Endophthalmitis is a condition involving inflammation and swelling within the eyeball. It is most often caused by infection with bacteria or other micro-organisms. It can also occur as a rare complication of cataract or other eye surgery.

After Dr. Mark inserted the catheter in Black's neck, the lawsuit states that she developed a serious infection and sepsis as a result of the procedure.

"As plaintiff's sepsis condition lingered, she developed endophthalmitis, consisting of infectious bacteria and fungus setting up inflammation which resulted in the loss of her sight and left eye as a direct result of the combined negligence of all of the defendants' negligent medical treatment," plaintiff's attorney Louis McWherter of Houston writes.

The lawsuit claims that as the endophthalmitis developed, "rapid treatment should have been provided if plaintiff Georgia Black's vision was to be preserved."

"The defendants' delay was a proximate cause that resulted in plaintiff's condition to become aggravated and the eventual loss of vision," the suit states.

The plaintiff alleges that the presence of a foreign object, like an intravenous line or catheter, increases the risk of sepsis and that the catheter Black's neck "should have been properly monitored."

The petition states that because the defendants failed to properly and adequately treat the Black she had to be transferred to Methodist Hospital in Houston for "corrective treatment."

"Due to the severity of the infection plaintiff Georgia Black acquired while a patient at St. Elizabeth Hospital, her left eye had to be surgically removed," the plaintiff claims.

The suit claims that Black's own conduct did not in any way contribute to her injuries. She is invoking the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur to establish negligence on the part of the defendant.

The doctrine refers to a rule of evidence whereby negligence may be inferred from the mere fact that the event happened.

Black is seeking damages for past and future medical expenses, physical pain and suffering, mental anguish, impairment, psychological treatment and loss of service.

The original petition states that for the loss of sight in the left eye, including damages to business, social relationship, loss of care, comfort, solace, companionship, protection, services and/or emotional relations, the plaintiff seeks economic damage in the amount of $5 million.

She is asking for $300,000 for actual damages; $250,000 in non-economic damages each from Christus Hospital, Dr. Lee and Dr. Mark.

The case has been assigned to Judge Bob Wortham of the 58th District Court.

Case No. A179-827.

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