Suit says UTMB lost piece of patient's skull

John Suayan, Galveston Bureau Aug. 7, 2008, 11:00am

GALVESTON – A stroke patient is blaming the University of Texas Medical Branch for losing a piece of his skull, say court papers filed Aug. 6 in Galveston County.

"This a not a case of medical malpractice, but a case alleging carelessness, gross negligence, and breach of a medical practitioner's fiduciary duty to the patient," the original petition says.

Plaintiff Marvin Simmons suffered a stroke in January 2007 and required confinement at UTMB after physicians discovered significant trouble with his brain. He immediately underwent surgery in which a piece of his skull was removed to relieve cranial pressure.

After his discharge the next month, Simmons wore a helmet to protect his brain while it healed. He awaited the follow-up replacement procedure, the suit says.

The wait, however, took longer than expected.

"After repeated, unexplained delays and rescheduling of the operation to replace the bone, the doctors at UTMB ultimately came clean and admitted to Mr. Simmons that they had lost a portion of his skull that was supposed to have been preserved in the bone bank," the suit explains.

The cranioplasty finally took place in October as doctors used titanium mesh as a substitute to the misplaced fragment.

The lawsuit states the defendant failed to:

  • Properly train, staff, and credential its physicians;
  • Properly train, staff, and credential its staff and nurses;
  • Safeguard the bone flap from Simmons' skull;
  • Develop and implement proper procedures for safeguarding the bone flap from Simmons' skull; and
  • Ensure that its employees follow proper policies and procedures.

    The suit further condemns the defendant's medical staff for causing Simmons "significant damage."

    With the help of Galveston attorney Tony Buzbee, he seeks damages for pain and suffering, mental anguish, physical disfigurement, and impairment in addition to punitive damages.

    A request for a jury trial was submitted along with the suit.

    Judge John Ellisor of the 122nd District Court is presiding over the case.

    Case No. 08CV0832

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