Case against hospital over child's electrode burns goes to trial

By David Yates | Sep 8, 2009

When she was only 17 months old, Shelby Bradley received electrical burns on her forearms while in the care of personnel at Christus Hospital St. Elizabeth.

The burns led Shelby's parents to file suit three years ago and now the matter will rest in the hands of Jefferson County jurors.

Jury selection began in Judge Gary Sanderson's 60th District Court on Tuesday, Sept. 8, in the trial of Rachelle Kelly vs. Christus Health.

Concerned about her daughter's slow growth and poor motor skills, Rachelle Kelly brought Shelby to Chistus St. Elizabeth in Beaumont on March 31, 2004, court papers say. While there the girl underwent a sweat chloride test.

The sweat chloride test, or sweat test, is a common procedure used to evaluate a patient who is suspected of having cystic fibrosis. Cystic fibrosis is often clinically suspected when there is poor growth during infancy.

According to court documents, Christus technician Judy McGee "failed to place electrode gel on Shelby's skin prior to placing electrodes onto her body and conducting the test."

"As a result, during the test Shelby suffered excruciating pain and � suffered first and second degree burns to her forearms," court papers say.

During her deposition, McGee testified that the pilogel disc, which fits snugly into the recess of the electrode to prevent burns, fell out.

"This was nothing but human error," McGee said in her deposition. "It was an accident."

In the suit, Shelby's parents fault Christus for the technician's alleged act of negligence. They cite the legal of Res ipsa loquitur, Latin for "the thing speaks for itself."

However, to cement their claims, the plaintiffs have hired Susan Engleman, a registered nurse currently employed at Memorial Hermann Children's Hospital in Houston.

In accordance to her opinion already rendered in the case, Engleman is expected to testify during the trial that Christus "failed to use appropriate conductive materials" and that McGee failed to react and discontinue the test when it appeared Shelby might be in pain.

The plaintiffs are asking jurors to award damages for Shelby's medical expenses and pain and suffering.

They are represented by attorney Kip Lamb of the Lamb Law Firm.

The defense is represented in part by Erin Lunceford, attorney for the Sprott, Rigby, Newsom, Robbins and Lunceford law firm.

Case No. B177-153

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