Obese man's bed sores not Christus' fault, jury concludes

David Yates Aug. 3, 2010, 9:00am

When asked if a patient's bed sores were caused by the negligence of nurses at Christus Hospital St. Elizabeth, Jefferson County jurors emphatically answered "No!"

Last week, jurors heard testimony from numerous medical experts as to whether the sores on Ronald Lee Lewis' buttocks were caused from his obese condition and skin friction, or from failing to have his position changed frequently.

After finishing their deliberations, jurors found no negligence on the part of Christus.

According to the charge of the court filed July 29, the jury foreman wrote "No!" -- exclamation point included -- when asked if the hospital employees caused Lewis' alleged injuries.

The Southeast Texas Record originally reported on Lewis' suit last May.

Lewis, a Silsbee resident, sued Christus alleging he developed pressure ulcers, an infection and pneumonia after his stay at the hospital.

Court records and testimony show Lewis was a patient at Christus for continuing medical care from Feb. 14, 2007, to March 24, 2007. He was admitted with broken ribs and other critical injuries.

Lewis claims he developed pressure ulcers on his buttocks, ventilator-associated pneumonia and suffered from a methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection during his treatment.

During the trial, plaintiff's attorney Brett Thomas argued the pressure ulcers were due to the hospital's failure to implement an adequate prevention program.

Conversely, Christus contended Lewis suffered from several pre-existing chronic health conditions which compounded his recovery.

On July 28, Christus nurse Rhoda Fountain, who treated and cared for Lewis, testified that his sores were actually shears caused from skin friction on the buttock and not from a lack of turning.

Lewis was severally obese, suffered from hypertension and back problems and had a stent in his heart, evidence shows.

Christus' medical expert, Dr. Hugh Poindexter, testified July 28 that Lewis' chronic health problems more than likely caused the complications during his hospitalization, saying he was in critical condition for several days after admittance.

Thomas is attorney for the Thomas, Roebuck and Adams law firm in Beaumont.

Christus was represented by attorney Curry Cooksey of the Beaumont law firm Orgain Bell & Tucker.

The trial began July 26 in Judge Bob Wortham's 58th District Court.

Jefferson County District Court case number: A183-940.

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