Appeals court to hear defense arguments for dismissal of med-mal case

By David Yates | Oct 5, 2009

A local hospital and physician claim they have been wrongly named in a medical-malpractice suit and will ask appellate justices later this month to reverse a lower judge's ruling denying their motion to dismiss.

As the Southeast Texas Record reported in October 2008, the family of the late Laura Sebile filed suit against Memorial Hermann Baptist Beaumont Hospital, two doctors and an anesthesiologist, claiming her death was caused because of their negligence.

In his suit, plaintiff Paul Sebile Sr., along with seven of his children, claims his wife -- who was 70-years old and morbidly obese -- died on Nov. 8, 2006, after doctors performed an "unnecessary heart surgery."

In requirements with Texas Civil Law, the plaintiff's attached the expert opinion of Dr. Shabir Bhimji, a cardiothoracic surgeon, to the suit.

In response, Baptist Hospital and Dr. Juan Gonzales, the anesthesiologist named in the suit, separately objected to the plaintiff's allegations and expert report, calling the suit's accusations vague and broad and the expert report unspecific.

"The plaintiffs' expert report never articulates how (Dr. Gonzales') alleged negligence caused Mrs. Sebile's death," an appeals brief states.

On July 10 a hearing to dismiss was held in Judge Gary Sanderson's 60th Judicial Court, where the judge denied both defendants' motions "with little guidance as to why," court papers say.

The ruling prompted the defendants to file individual appeals.

The issue has been set on submission for briefs. Justices seated on Texas' Ninth Court of Appeals in Beaumont will review the case Oct. 23.

According to court documents, the hospital will argue that plaintiff's expert report does not address the hospital's alleged negligence.

"The report has only one conclusory sentence on causation ... that an unspecified drug ordered by the nurses played some unspecified role," the hospital's appeals brief states.

Both defendants argue that Laura Sebile's death "can be (solely) traced to the surgical complication" she suffered when the surgeon punctured her heart.

Case background

The suit alleges that Laura was discharged on advice and pain pills even though a chest X-ray found evidence suggesting congestive heart failure.

Dr. Arfeen Qamar referred Laura to Dr. Fallon Gordan, and she was immediately booked for a biopsy of her lymph nodes on Oct. 25, 2006.

Neither doctor took into account the possible reason for Laura's problem may have been congestive heart failure, according to the complaint.

In addition, the doctor did not order a cardiology consult before Laura's surgery despite her past open heart surgery, the suit states.

Paul claims before the biopsy, Laura was placed under anesthesia by Dr. Juan Manuel Gonzalez, who allegedly did not check her medical history.

Gordon, who had ordered the anesthesiologist, also failed to perform necessary tests before ordering the doctor, the suit states.

During the "unnecessary" and "risky" procedure, Gordon punctured Laura's heart, according to the complaint.

A cardiac surgeon was called in to stop the massive bleeding, which had started after the puncture, the suit states.

Laura could not eat or talk after the incident, developed multi-organ failure and died 13 days later on Nov. 8, 2006, according to the complaint.

Later, Paul claims he found out the only samples ever sent to pathology were rib fragments, not lung tissue as originally planned.

Laura suffered gross abuse, extensive neglect and undue pain while she was a patient at the hospital and under the care of its doctors, according to the complaint.

"Mrs. Sebile's basic needs were ignored and her dignity was disregarded," the suit states.

The Sebile family is represented by Jane S. Leger of Provost Umphrey Law Firm in Beaumont.

Baptist Hospital is represented in part by attorney Kendall Gray.

Dr. Gonzales is represented in part by attorney Larry D. Thompson.

Trial case No. B182-575

Appeal case Nos. 09-09-00333 and 09-09-00363

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