A new suit alleging Christus Hospital St. Mary negligently failed to put fall precautions in place for a seizure patient was filed on May 23 in the Jefferson County District Court.

The plaintiff in the suit, Joyce Viator, was being treated at St. Mary on Aug. 31, 2006, for a seizure disorder when she fell and broke her hip.

"Although Viator was identified as being at a high risk for falls, the nursing staff of St. Mary failed to develop and implement an appropriate nursing plan of care to prevent her … fall," the suit says, adding that the hospital acted with a complete disregard for Viator's well being and safety, entitling her to exemplary damages.

The suit does not give any additional details about Viator's fall.

However, a medical opinion attached to the suit and authored by Kathleen Ennen, a North Carolina nurse, says Viator fell while trying to go to the bathroom around 3 a.m. She was found on the floor in a confused and disorientated state and was later diagnosed with a fractured hip.

Viator had been taken to the hospital after she suffered two seizure episodes at home.

"In my opinion, the appropriate standards of care required that the nursing staff and hospital provide its patient with a safe environment," Ennen wrote, adding that the hospital accurately identified Viator as a fall risk but took no action to ensure her safety.

In addition to exemplary damages, Viator is seeking mental anguish, lost earning capacity, disfigurement and medical expenses damages.

Plaintiff's attorney Kenneth Lewis of the Bush Lewis law firm further alleges Texas' caps on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases are unconstitutional and asks the court to declare the provision void.

The case has been assigned to Judge Gary Sanderson, 60th Judicial District.

Case No. B181-798

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