Christus settles case over missed step before new trial begins

David Yates Mar. 30, 2009, 9:10am

Rather than try to beat the odds, Christus Southeast Texas opted to settle before jurors could hear any testimony in a case involving a man who tripped while in the hospital's parking garage – the second of its kind filed against the hospital in recent years.

A Jefferson County jury had already heard the case of Charles English vs. Christus once in Judge Bob Wortham's Court but after a week of testimony deliberations ended in mistrial Nov. 24.

A new trial was slated to begin March 23, again in Wortham's court, with a new jury panel being tasked to decide if the non-profit hospital endangered a visitor by leaving a curb in the garage unpainted. However, according to courthouse personnel, English and Christus reached a settlement the next day.

Terms of the settlement were not disclosed, but in a similar trial in August 2007 a jury ordered Christus to pay plaintiff Flo Wilson more than $700,000. Wilson had missed a step and broke her hip while in the Christus Hospital St. Elizabeth parking garage in Beaumont.

With Judge Gary Sanderson presiding, the jury found the hospital negligent for not painting a yellow hazard stripe on the step.

Wilson was represented by Tim Ferguson of Beaumont's Ferguson Firm.

Two weeks after receiving a favorable verdict in the Wilson case, Ferguson filed a suit on behalf of 72-year-old English, who claims he fell over the very same parking lot step and broke his leg.

English's suit, filed Sept. 6, 2007, in Jefferson County District Court, also named Allco Inc., the construction company that built the hospital's parking garage, as a defendant. Allco reached an out of court settlement with English.

According to the plaintiff's petition, on Oct. 3, 2006, English went to St. Elizabeth to visit a patient. While in the parking garage, "English was severely injured when he fell on an unmarked curb."

The suit faults the defendants with failing to paint a yellow caution stripe on the step, failing to provide adequate parking garage lighting and failing to follow city and state "uneven steps" regulations.

Christus was represented in part by attorney Wade Quinn from the Houston firm Barker Lyman PC.

Case No. A179-969

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