St. Mary Hospital wins appeal of $1.2M jury verdict

David Yates Oct. 17, 2011, 9:00am

Last Thursday, the Texas Ninth Court of Appeals found the evidence "legally insufficient" for jurors to levy a $1.2 million verdict against Christus Health Southeast Texas.

As previously reported, on Jan. 21, 2010, a Jefferson County jury concluded that nurses at Christus Hospital St. Mary in Port Arthur were negligent in their treatment of the late Stacy Meaux, levying a $1.4 million verdict against the hospital.

Meaux's mother, Mary Ann Licatino, sued the hospital in November 2008, alleging Christus nurses and Dr. Michael Peterson incorrectly diagnosed and treated Meaux.

Court records show Meaux died of a heart attack a day after receiving treatment.

Dr. Peterson settled for $150,000 in August 2009, while Christus opted to take its chances in court.

According to the charge of the court, jurors found Dr. Peterson was 20 percent responsible in his treatment and diagnosis of Meaux, pushing the remaining 80 percent of the blame upon Christus.

After the application of settlement credits, statutory damage caps and Meaux's medical expenses, the judgment was reduced from $1,215,075 to $331,390, court papers say.

On March 3, 2010, Judge Milton Shuffield, 136th District Court, signed off on a $331,390 judgment and entered it into court records.

The following month, Christus filed an appeal questioning whether there was sufficient evidence of wanton negligence.

On Oct. 13 the Ninth Court issued an opinion, authored by Justice Charles Kreger, finding in favor of Christus.

"We hold that the evidence of deviation from the standard of care by St. Mary's nursing staff is legally insufficient to support the jury's finding that the willful and wanton negligence of the hospital was a proximate cause of Stacy's death," the opinion states.

"Accordingly, we reverse the trial court's judgment and render a take-nothing judgment."

Case background

Court papers show that Meaux went to the emergency room at Christus Hospital St. Mary on Oct. 2, 2007, complaining of chest pain, chest discomfort and tightness.

The triage nurses at St. Mary designated Meaux at Level 3, indicating she did not face imminent death.

Meaux was over 40 years old, overweight, smoked and suffered from diabetes - all conditions which the Meaux family contends Christus and Dr. Peterson failed to take into account when she was admitted.

Jurors divided up the 1.4 million verdict between several of Meaux's surviving relatives.

The jury awarded plaintiff $200,000 in pecuniary damages to plaintiff Celina Fairchild.

Beaumont attorney Clay Dugas represents the plaintiffs.

Christus is represented in part by attorney Erin Lunceford of the Houston law firm Sprott, Rigby, Newsom, Robbins, Lunceford & Bell PC.

Trial case No. D182-712
Appeals case No. 09-10-00199

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