Southeast Texas Record

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Dismissal hearing reset in medical malpractice case of man who swallowed chicken bone

By David Yates | Jan 5, 2009

Memorial Hermann Baptist Beaumont Hospital

Defendants entangled in a medical malpractice suit involving a man who swallowed a chicken bone and died a few days later are trying to have the case dismissed.

Two years ago, Charles West managed to swallow a chicken bone without choking on it, but the bone continued through his system until it tore a hole in his bowel.

As the Southeast Texas Record reported in December 2007, West's family sued Memorial Hermann Baptist Beaumont Hospital and two of its physicians, claiming negligence on the part of the providers following surgery to repair the bowel, which eventually led to the 74-year-old's death.

Charles' widow Dorothy West and her three children filed the suit against Memorial and Drs. Bodo Brauer and Jerome Schrapps on Dec. 10, 2007, in the Jefferson County District Court.

On Monday, Jan. 5, a motion to dismiss hearing was slated in Judge Milton Shuffield's 136th District court.

According to court personnel, it has been rescheduled because the plaintiffs submitted their answer to the motion only a few hours before the scheduled hearing and defendants want time to review the 50-page document.

When the hearing date is reset, defendants are expected to argue that the plaintiffs' medical expert reports are insufficient to warrant continuation of the lawsuit.

In its objection to the plaintiff's medical expert, Memorial Hermann argues the opinions of Dr. Richard Pinon and nurse Joni Davis fail to show how the hospital was negligent.

Other defendant court documents also allege no medical opinion can detract from West's contributory negligence.

Case Background

According to the plaintiffs' original petition, on Nov. 7, 2006, Charles West was admitted to Memorial Hermann under the care of Dr. Brauer with abdominal pain and was found to have a small bowel perforation caused by a chicken bone.

A penetration of the intestinal wall can result in bacterial contamination of the abdominal cavity.

To correct West's condition, Dr. Schrapps performed a "segmental resection with primary anastomosis," which basically means that segments of the bowel were reconnected. The procedure went well, but two days later West's lab studies revealed a drop in hemoglobin and hematocrit (red blood cells that carry oxygen), the suit said.

"No additional studies were ordered or carried out until Nov. 11, 2006, when Mr. West was found to have suffered severe damage to his kidneys, liver and heart muscle," the suit said.

"Such damage was caused by the severe hypovolemia, anemia, and resultant reduced oxygen-carrying capacity and oxygen deprivation of the organs. The patient continued a downhill course and had a cardiac arrest on Nov. 12, 2006, from which he could not be resuscitated and died."

A medical opinion authored by Dr. Richard Pinon, a New Mexico physician hired by the plaintiffs, was attached to the plaintiffs' original petition. Dr. Pinon said West's past medical history consisted of atrial fibrillation, type 2 diabetes, chronic renal insufficiency and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

"In conclusion, it is my opinion based on a reasonable degree of medical probability that violation of the standard of care as outlined above by Dr. Bodo Brauer and Dr. Jerome Schrapps led to Mr. West's demise from apparent blood loss and had appropriate measures been taken, Mr. West's subsequent organ damage would have been avoided," Pinon wrote.

"If the standard of care as outlined above had been followed, Mr. West's myocardial infarction would have been avoided and he would not have suffered his untimely death."

The suit alleges the hospital was negligent by failing to notify the attending physicians, both the surgeon and the primary care physician, of the drop in hemoglobin and hematocrit; and failing to "go up the chain of command" in the absence of the physicians ordering tests or carrying out procedures to determine the reason for the drop in hemoglobin and hematocrit.

The suit continued by alleging that Drs. Brauer and Schrapps committed the following acts of negligence:

  • Failing to repeat the CBC within 4-6 hours to confirm or negate that the earlier laboratory result was not an error;
  • Failing to repeat the coagulation profile to evaluate whether over-anticoagulation was a cause for occult or frank bleeding and thus the cause for Mr. West's drop in hemoglobin and hematocrit;
  • Failing to obtain a CT scan of the abdomen to determine the presence or absence of intra-abdominal bleeding; and
  • Failing to give packed red blood cell transfusions if necessary to increase the body's oxygen transportation to Mr. West's vital organs.

    West's family is suing for his conscious pain, impairment and hospital expenses, plus mental anguish, loss of companionship and inheritance and funeral expenses.

    The family also alleges that Memorial Hermann and its physicians acted with malice, which entitles them to recover punitive damages.

    They are represented by attorney Clay Dugas.

    The hospital is represented in part by James Old, Jr., an attorney for the Germer Gertz law firm in Beaumont.

    Case No. D180-874

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