$3M med-mal trial takes a break

By David Yates | May 16, 2007

The on going medical-malpractice trial in Judge Gary Sanderson's 60th District Court was put on hold. Judge Sanderson had to attend a seminar this week. The trial, which began May 3, will resume on Monday.

The family of the late Richard Bernard Salter allege the lack of action and incompetence of numerous Memorial Hermann Baptist Orange Hospital medical personnel ultimately led to his death.

They are suing for more than $3 million in damages.

Salter's family claim that Dr. Marshall Packard, the Triangle Hospital Care Group and the Baptist Hospital of Southeast Texas (Baptist Orange) breached the ordinary standard of care by failing to adequately observe, assess, diagnose, treat and transport Salter.

According to the plaintiffs' seventh amended petition, Salter, 36, sought emergency medical treatment at the Orange Hospital on Feb. 1, 2003. He was diagnosed with dehydration and R/O sepsis and held for four hours before being transported to the telemetry unit, where he was attended to by Dr. Packard and a nurse.

Salter did not have a spleen and was highly susiptable to infection.

Medical records and testimony on both sides state the nurse spent 14 minutes with Salter before leaving him "in his time of need" to take her lunch break. The plaintiffs argue that the nurse never properly performed a physical examination. If she had, the nurse might have discovered Salter was suffering from circulatory (fluid) overload, which could dangerously progress to pulmonary edema.

John Davis, the plaintiffs' attorney, said Salter died from fluid in his lungs. Right before his death, testimony showed Salter, who was suffering from dehydration, had consumed three bottles of Gatorade and two Red Bulls in a short period of time.

On the other hand, the defense argues that the nurse was a seasoned veteran with more than 20 years of experience who did not breach the standard of care while tending to Salter, and that nurses are prohibited from making medical diagnosis. Nurses can only assess a pataient's condition and relay the information to a physician.

Medical records showed the nurse's notes on Salter were vague, and that she returned to add more detailed information to Salter's chart only after his death.

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