Doctor cleared of negligence in malpractice trial over blood clot

David Yates Nov. 9, 2010, 5:00am


Houston physician Kenneth Toppell did not negligently fail to diagnose a former patient's blood clot, a Jefferson County jury recently found.

On behalf of the late Peggy Jones, Toppell was sued in March 2009 by Trudy McInnis, who alleged that during an Aug. 3, 2007, emergency room visit, the physician failed to detect Jones' pulmonary embolism - a blockage of the lung by a substance that travelled through the bloodstream.

Dr. Charles Manner, also a defendant in the suit, was non-suited March 3.

The trial began Nov. 1 and ended with a no negligence verdict four days later on Nov. 5. Judge Bob Wortham, 58th District Court, presided over the proceedings.

According to testimony and court records, Jones was admitted to Memorial Hermann Baptist Hospital complaining of shortness of breath and generalized weakness. She was treated by Drs. Manner and Toppell, who prescribed 4 liters of oxygen before discharging her.

The next day, Jones was found in severe respiratory distress and rushed back to the hospital by helicopter. An echocardiogram revealed evidence of right heart strain, suggestive of pulmonary embolism.

Jones' family chose to list her as a "do not resuscitate" patient, court records show.

The jury was asked to determine if Dr. Toppell negligently failed to asses Jones' deteriorating situation and diagnose the pulmonary embolism.

The jury found no negligence on any kind on Dr. Toppell's part, declining to award and damages to the plaintiffs.

They were asking jurors to award them damages for Jones' pain and suffering, mental anguish and medical expenses, plus loss of companionship damages.

Provost Umphrey attorney Mark Sparks was representing the plaintiffs.

Dr. Toppell was represented by Houston attorney Joel Sprott.

Case No. A183-477

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