Judge Floyd threatens to hold lawyers in contempt during med-mal trial

David Yates Dec. 3, 2008, 8:38am

Judge Donald Floyd

Following several outbursts, a medical-malpractice trial came to a brief halt on Wednesday, Dec. 3, when Judge Donald Floyd had the bailiff escort jurors out of his court so he could mediate a dispute between the opposing attorneys.

The case of Stacy Thompson vs. Dr. James Woodruff et al was only about 10 minutes into trial when jurors were told to vacate Judge Floyd's 172nd District Court. The judge then called the counselors to his bench and told them he would consider holding them in contempt if any more outbursts occurred.

"We don't allow this type of activity in this court," Floyd told the bickering attorneys, adding that he would consider declaring a mistrial if another outburst occurred and would also consider "holding someone in contempt."

As soon as the trial commenced, the outburst started, as defense attorneys wasted no time in firing out several rounds of sustained objections while plaintiff's attorney Valorie Davenport attempted to deliver her opening remarks.

Defense attorneys Joel Sprott, James Woodruff II and James Edwards objected to Davenport's repeated straying off record and lacing her arguments with hearsay.

Both sides exploded and began yelling at one another when it was discovered Davenport had passed out notebooks and binders with possible case information to jurors without notifying the defense.

The defense accused Davenport of jury tampering and compared her tactics to something one might read in a John Grisham novel.

Judge Floyd had the notebooks removed and labeled as exhibit X. Despite the defenses' fervent requests, the judge declined to take any disciplinary actions against Davenport, but did issue her a strict warning.

"Mrs. Davenport, I know you're chomping at the bit … but if another outburst occurs I'm going to hold you in contempt and have the bailiff take you away," Judge Floyd told her.

The trial centers on Stacy Thompson, who sued several of her treating doctors in 2002, claiming they had negligently failed to diagnose her alleged breast cancer in a timely manner.

According to court documents and trial testimony, Thompson first began to notice a problem with her right breast in early 1997 when her nipple started to discharge blood.

In July of 1997, she sought treatment from Dr. James Woodruff, who after running multiple test, failed to detect any signs of breast cancer.

Davenport told jurors Dr. Woodruff was negligent for not prescribing pain medication to Thompson and forcing her to undergo a galactogram (an imaging of the breast duct).

Court documents show Dr. Woodruff attempted to perform the galactogram test on Thompson three separate times, but she kept passing out from the pain.

The plaintiffs argue he was negligent for not prescribing her pain medication and making Thompson undergo the test a fourth time.
Court documents and testimony show that Dr. Woodruff had already performed several other types of tests, which all came up negative.

A few months after Thompson's consultation, Dr. Woodruff retired.
Over the next four years, Thompson was treated by multiple physicians including doctors Duane Larson and Scott Kacy, both of whom are defendants in her suit.

During her opening remarks, Davenport accused Drs. Larson and Kacy of negligence, claiming they both failed to detect Thompson's breast cancer and failed to order a new round of tests – even though Thompson was still claiming to experience a bloody discharge from her right nipple.

In February 2001, a biopsy was performed on some of Davenport's breast tissue by the late Dr. Larson. The suspicious tissue was sent to M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston for further testing, where it was concluded Thompson had intradural carcinoma, modified black's nuclear grade 2 with Focal Necrosis ( early breast cancer), court documents show.

Thompson underwent surgery to have the cancerous cells removed and lost most of her right breast as a result. Plastic surgeons were unable to construct a new nipple on the breast, court documents and testimony show.

In his opening statement, defense attorney James Edwards argued Thompson's breast cancer was still in stage zero (the earliest stage) and that her bloody discharge was the result of a different "benign" condition that was detected and treated.

"Three different physicians looking for lumps … and breast cancer tests reported a normal exam and no bloody discharge," Edwards said. "There was never any cancerous tumor. These doctors did the appropriate tests."

Thompson, who had to have a back muscle removed to repair her breast, claims she can no longer work and is suing for past and future lost wages, mental anguish and disfigurement.

Her husband, also a plaintiff in the suit, is suing for loss of consortium and household services.

Dr. Larson is represented by attorney Sprott, Dr. Woodruff is represented by his son, James Woodruff II, and Dr. Kacy is represented by Edwards.

Davenport made the news in 1990 when she won an acquittal for her sister, who was charged with illegally using the men's room after she gave up on the long line to the ladies' room during a George Strait concert in Houston.

Case No. E167-187

More News