Suit blames doctor for man's death following hernia surgery

By David Yates | May 20, 2008

Brian Sutton

A 70-year-old man lost his life more than two years ago after undergoing hernia surgery. Now, the late Burton Richard's family is suing the doctor who performed the surgery for lost inheritance.

Alice Richard, representing the estate of Burton, filed the Richard family's medical-malpractice suit against Dr. John Schmidt on May 16 in the Jefferson County District Court.

According to the plaintiffs' petition, on March 2, 2006, Burton underwent extended right hemicolectomy surgery at the Medical Center of Southeast Texas, where he also received follow-up care. Dr. Schmidt performed the surgery.

The suit is not clear on what happened following the surgery, but apparently Burton bled out and died, "as a result of the negligence of defendant."

"Plaintiff and wrongful death beneficiaries have suffered the loss of inheritance including the loss of present value of the assets that Decedent, in reasonable probability would have added to the estate and left at natural death," the suit says.

"During his lifetime, decedent was industrious and energetic, a good husband, gave advice, counsel, comfort, care, and protection to his wife. In all reasonable probability, he would have continued to do so. At his death decedent possessed assets and accumulated savings from his past earnings, which, in all reasonable probability, he would have continued to accumulate for the remainder of his natural life."

The suit alleges Dr. Schmidt committed the following acts of negligence:

  • Failure to perform and conduct the proper tests to accurately detect the condition of Burton;
  • Failure to render and provide reasonable medical care under the circumstances;
  • Failure to conform to the requisite standard of reasonable medical care;
  • Failure to exercise the required degree of skill required by a medical practitioner under the circumstances;
  • Failure to properly recognize, diagnose, and treat appropriately the condition of Burton;
  • Failure to administer or prescribe the appropriate tests;
  • Failure to recognize and report warning signs and signals and then proceed appropriately in light of the dangers and risks;
  • Failure to properly interpret tests and/or studies;
  • Failure to use indicated and available laboratory, diagnostic, and/or consulting facilities;
  • Failure to perform surgery in a timely manner so as to avoid further and additional injury;
  • Failure to properly monitor Burton's condition;
  • Failure to perform surgery in a safe manner;
  • Failure to control bleeding;and
  • Failure to obtain intraoperative consultations until Burton Richard had significant blood loss.

    The Richard family is also suing for mental anguish and loss of companionship, plus funeral expenses.

    The family is represented by attorney Brian Sutton of Sutton & Jacobs.

    Sutton writes in the suit that Texas' med-mal caps are unconstitutional.

    Judge Milton Shuffield, 136th Judicial District, has been assigned to the case.

    Case No. D181-767

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