Sedgwick County jury finds doctor most at fault in work-injury malpractice case

09/26/2013 6:00 PM

09/26/2013 6:00 PM

A Sedgwick County jury on Thursday found a physician to be at the most fault in a work-injury malpractice lawsuit.

The jury reached a damage award of just under $1.12 million, of which $735,900 will go to the patient, the patient’s lawyer said.

The jury found that the physician, Ronald Davis, was 66 percent at fault, and the patient, Andrew Henson, was 34 percent at fault for not going to an emergency room on his own, said Mark Hutton, who along with lawyer Blake Shuart represented Henson.

Hutton contends that the case illustrates a wider problem: that injured employees sent to a doctor picked by a company – “the company doctor” – have a mindset to try to get the employee back to work as soon as they can instead of making sure the worker doesn’t have a life-threatening condition.

The lesson of this case, Hutton said, “is when in doubt … send them to the emergency room, where they get a higher level of care. ... Don’t send them back to work.”

Hutton said the case could cause physicians to be more careful. “Hopefully, this may save a life or two,” he said.

Defense lawyers couldn’t be reached Thursday after the jury’s decision.

Hutton gave this summary of the lawsuit, filed in 2010: Henson, now 55, of Augusta, was working for Belger Cartage as a heavy-duty equipment transporter and mover. He suffered a crushing injury to his chest on Feb. 4, 2008, when he was pinned between large containers.

A spokesman for Belger Cartage couldn’t be reached Thursday afternoon.

Because the injury was job-related, Henson was sent to an occupational medicine physician, Davis, who was picked by the employer, Hutton said. According to Hutton, Davis examined Henson and diagnosed the crushing injury, saw Henson over a period of four days at a clinic, and told him to call if his condition got worse.

Henson called on a Saturday and a Monday. Hutton contends that based on those calls, Henson should have been sent to an emergency room for closer examination. Instead, Davis directed Henson to return to him five days later, Hutton said. When Henson returned to see the doctor, he was having a heart attack, but Davis didn’t recognize it and sent Henson to a CT scan, Hutton said.

When Henson went for the scan, a nurse realized that he was having a life-threatening condition, put him in a wheelchair, and directed that he go to an adjacent emergency room. Once in the ER, Henson went into full cardiac arrest and suffered serious heart damage, Hutton said.

Hutton said the case showed that Henson began having a heart attack on Feb. 9 and suffered the massive attack in the ER on Feb. 13.

If he had been sent to the ER on Feb. 9, 10 or 11, the massive attack would have been prevented, Hutton contends.

Because of the heart damage Henson suffered from the heart attack, he lost his job, Hutton said.

Henson is unemployed, and it’s doubtful he will be able to work again, especially as a heavy-equipment transporter, Hutton said.

A device was implanted in his heart as a result of the heart attack, and he can’t work around industrial machinery because it can interfere with the device’s operation, Hutton said.

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