Monday, May 21, 2007

Jury can’t decide malpractice trial

After deliberating for 12 hours, a Madison County jury was unable to reach a verdict in the medical malpractice trial of Dr. James Dalla Riva.

Late Tuesday morning, Circuit Judge Barb Crowder declared a mistrial.

The jurors began their deliberations at 10:30 a.m. on Monday and were sent home around 7:30 p.m. They returned Tuesday morning at 9 a.m.

Reached by phone, St. Louis attorney David Damick said that he will discuss the options with his client, Mary Baugus, and that they will decide soon whether to refile the case.

“Dr. Dalla Riva appreciates the work of the jury, and we’re disappointed that the time spent - five days - did not result in a finding,” said Dalla Riva’s attorney Michael Pitzer, also of St. Louis.

In closing statements, Damick did not ask jurors to award a specific amount to Baugus. He noted, however, that Baugus had $34,261 in medical bills, and he suggested pain and suffering compensation of “a couple of hundred thousand dollars.” Baugus had surgery after the incident and returned to the hospital a total of nine times, Damick said.

Dalla Riva was on medical staff at Anderson Hospital on Jan. 4, 2002, when he performed an abdominal hysterectomy on Baugus, and removed her ovaries.

Damick maintained that Dalla Riva was negligent because he chose to use the “blunt dissection” method. While it is a common method, it should not have been used in Baugus’ situation because she had adhesions from earlier caesarean sections. “When you’ve got that kind of adhesions you don’t hurry through with blunt dissection,” he said. “Why is it wrong? Because the bladder is unique. It’s soft. It bloodies easily.”

Baugus developed severe pain and abnormal bleeding and was later found to have a half-inch perforation to her bladder.

Eventually, the severe bleeding was stopped, and she was discharged from Anderson Hospital.

Damick also faulted Dalla Riva for not “oversewing” to protect the bladder. In summary, Damick alleged that Dalla Riva knew about the adhesions and should have been more cautious. “He acted like a driver who knew he was approaching heavy traffic but acted like he wasn’t,” Damick said.

But Pitzer said Dalla Riva exercised sound judgment and that “he didn’t gamble or take risks.” He chastised Damick for flying in Dr. James Tappan from California and paying him $23,000 to testify.

Baugus, he said, had a history of medical problems before the surgery, and she had been given a pamphlet to read that clearly spelled out the risks. Dalla Riva, he said, did not puncture the bladder. In fact, the bladder performed well for 10 days after the surgery. Pitzer said it was not clear why the perforation developed. “In this case, for whatever reason, the bladder opened up,” he said, “but it did not appear to be weakened during the surgery.” Dalla Riva, he said “did exercise his judgment the way a careful, reasonable physician would do.”

Also on Tuesday, a mistrial was declared before the start of another medical malpractice trial. Plaintiff Jessica Cooper alleged that on May 2, 2002, Dr. Geoffrey Turner was negligent during the delivery of her daughter, Rainee Cooper. The delivery occurred at St. Anthony’s Hospital in Alton. The suit was filed by St. Louis attorneys Mark Bronson and Marc Wallis. It alleges that, among other things, Turner, during the delivery, used “excessive downward lateral traction, causing a brachial plexus during delivery.”

Court officials declined to comment about why a mistrial was declared.

Judge David Hylla was not available for comment Tuesday afternoon.

No comments: