Family claims doctors should have stopped IV bleed that allegedly led to man's death

Kelly Holleran Jan. 13, 2009, 9:46am

The family of a deceased Jefferson County man has filed suit against two local doctors, alleging the physicians' negligence led to the man's death.

Hazel Adams, wife of Joseph Curly Adams, and Glynis Haggerty, daughter of Joseph Curly Adams, claim he died in April 2007 because Drs. Margaret Lang-Williams and Marsha Thigpen, failed to properly treat his significant blood loss, according to the complaint filed Jan. 8 in Jefferson County District Court.

According to court documents, Joseph Curly Adams, 63, was admitted to Promise Specialty Hospital of Southeast Texas in Nederland on March 29, 2007, with a history of end-stage renal disease and renal cell carcinoma. He also had a status post nephrectomy, a history of tracheal stenosis with chronic repiratory failure, a history of valvular heart disease with subacute bacterial endocarditis, aortic stenosis, congestive heart failure and a history of dementia, the suit states.

Adams had been admitted to wean him from a ventilator, for nutritional support and for administration of a six-week course of IV antibiotics.

According to the suit, on the morning of April 10, 2007, a staff nurse noted "blood squirting from Mr. Adams' left arm AV shunt site."

She applied pressure and contacted the house doctor, Marsha Thigpen, the suit states.

Dr. Thigpen noted the AV graft was malfunctioning and that Joseph Curly Adams's blood pressure was 67 systolic, the plaintiffs claim.

Dr. Thigpen discussed his situation with the attending physician, Margaret M. Lang-Williams, applied a tourniquet and ordered saline and dopamine through a 22-gauge IV site started, the lawsuit states.

An ambulance then took Adams to the Medical Center of Southeast Texas where the emergency physician noted he had "been bleeding for 12 hours," the suit states.

Upon Adams's arrival to the emergency room at Medical Center of Southeast Texas, he had no pulse or blood pressure, the plaintiffs claim.

"Life saving efforts were then initiated but with no response," the suit states.

Adams died on April 10, 2007, according to the complaint.

Before his death, Adams suffered pain and mental anguish, conscious physical and emotional pain, torment and suffering, the suit states.

Because of his death, both Hazel Adams and Haggerty suffered a loss of Joseph Curly Adams's care, maintenance, support, services, advice, counsel, reasonable contributions, companionship and society and experienced emotional pain, torment and suffering, they claim.

In addition, Hazel Adams incurred medical, funeral and burial expenses, according to the complaint.

The suit states the doctors negligently failed to immediately establish an emergency IV access that was big enough to rapidly administer large amounts of resuscitative fluids.

"Rather, they attempted to use the small IV access in the back of Mr. Adams' right wrist which was inadequate to handle the massive amounts of fluids and blood products that he required," the suit states.

According to the complaint, the doctors also failed to stabilize Adams before the transfer to the Medical Center of Southeast Texas.

"Had Drs. Thigpen and Lang-Williams stabilized Mr. Adams prior to transfer, he would have survived the bleeding episode and would have been able to continue weaning from the ventilator, continue with IV antibiotic therapy and nutrition as planned at Promise Hospital," the suit states.

Hazel Adams and Haggerty are seeking a judgment for unspecified actual damages in the jurisdictional limits of Jefferson County District Court, plus pre- and post-judgment interest at the legal rate, costs and other relief the court deems just.

They are represented by Leland M. Irwin of Ellis and Irwin in Richmond.

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

Case No. A182-977

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