Law firm sued for failing to litigate med-mal case

John Suayan, Galveston Bureau Jun. 26, 2008, 6:53am


GALVESTON – Two local physicians narrowly escaped a malpractice suit, but the attorneys who failed to litigate are not so lucky.

Harry Williams is suing the law firm Beck & Crowder LLP and the estate of Dennis Beck in Galveston County District Court for what he believes is failure to take Drs. William H. Nealon and Eric M. Walser to court on allegations they botched a procedure.

Williams filed the suit in the 56th District Court on June 23.

The original petition says that the plaintiff, who had his gallbladder removed in a Dallas hospital, sought follow-up treatment at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston in April 2002. Dr Nealon and other employees saw Williams and recommended the he undergo a percutaneous cholangiogram.

The procedure was performed by Dr. Nealon and Dr. Walser. Williams fell ill shortly afterwards.

"Following the procedure, (the) plaintiff was diagnosed with acute pancreatitis," explains the suit. (He) was later informed by William H. Nealon, M.D., that his pancreas had been 'hit' during the procedure and that his pancreas reacted violently."

The suit alleges Williams suffered from several medical episodes including but not limited to necrotizing pancreatitis, intestinal obstruction, and pancreatic cyst and pseudocyst over a period of several months.

"Plaintiff has endured numerous surgical procedures, including the lysis of adhesions and the debridement of necrotic pancreatic tissue, and was near death on several occasions," it adds. "Williams continues to suffer from severe debilitation with damage to his internal organs and abdominal drain."

Consequently, Williams turned to Beck & Crowder in an effort to seek damages from Drs. Nealon and Walser. The firm agreed to represent him, says the suit.

The would-be suit, however, came to an abrupt halt after "certain legislative enactments came into full effect" in September 2003.

"These changes, among other things, effectively prevented litigation against Defendants employed by the state, such as William H. Nealon, M.D., and Eric M. Walser, M.D., and set certain limits on non-pecuniary damages."

The complaint ultimately laments that Beck and Crowder did not file the suit on Williams' behalf prior to the effective date of the legislation despite investigating the claim at UTMB and keeping the plaintiff's file on record for a significant amount of time.

"The defendants later returned his file to him by leaving it on his front porch in Galveston County, Texas, refusing continued representation," it charges.

With the help of attorney Ralph D. Huston, Williams aims to collect damages arising from "permanent physical impairment, lost wages, lost household services, significant medical treatment, great physical and mental pain, suffering, and anguish, and medical expenses in the past as well as losses for loss of wage earning capacity, household services, physical impairment, medical expenses, and pain, suffering, and mental anguish into the future."

The case has been assigned to Judge Lonnie Cox.

Case No. 08CV0645

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