BEAUMONT – After five days of deliberations, a Jefferson County jury failed to reach a verdict in a medical malpractice lawsuit brought by an area couple that lost their son when he killed himself while under a suicide watch.
Individually and as representatives of the estate of Justin Holman, Kimberly Holman Bobb and Jerome Johnson filed suit against Baptist Hospitals of Southeast Texas and Dr. Ravikumar Kanneganti on May 22, 2014 in the Jefferson County District Court.
Justin was admitted to Baptist on Oct. 9, 2013, after attempting suicide by overdosing on Valium. He was then transferred to the Behavioral Health Center where he came under the care of Dr. Kanneganti on Oct. 10, 2013.
Bobb was informed later that day her son was in a coma after again attempting suicide with items left in his hospital room. A housekeeper discovered Justin, who had been left alone, hanging from a sheet that he had threaded through the air-conditioning vent, according to court records.
He died on Oct. 15, 2013.
The plaintiffs blame Kanneganti, a psychiatrist, for failing to take reasonable steps to protect Justin from self-inflicted harm, especially when considering his previous suicide attempt.
The case went to trial in late February and ended with a hung jury. A mistrial was declared March 19.
Plaintiffs’ attorney Brian Mazzola told the Record he and his team will try the case again in April and will look to select a more impartial and “colorblind” jury the next time around.
The plaintiffs in the case are African American.
Right before the case went to trial, Kanneganti filed a motion to change venue on Feb. 16, asserting local prejudice due to news outlets and social media, chiefly the Southeast Texas Record.
Mazzola had posted past Record articles on the case on his Facebook page.
Kanneganti argued psychiatric care and suicide are divisive topics that are “not well known or understood by the general population.”
On top of exemplary damages, Bobb and Johnson are seeking medical expenses, damages and funeral and burial expenses.
Along with Mazzola, Joe House of the Houston law firm House Perron & House also represents the plaintiffs.
Kanneganti is represented by Mary Kathleen Evans, attorney for the Houston law firm Luccia & Evans.
Judge Justin Sanderson, 60th District Court, is presiding over the case.
Case No. B195-736