A Texas jury found that the staff at Hillcrest Baptist Medical was not negligent in their actions prior to 35-year-old Sarah Gann’s death. In 2011, Gann was admitted to the facility with pains in the lower back region. A jury in the 170th District Court deliberated for just over one hour when they returned with a verdict. The plaintiffs claimed that Mrs. Gann was a victim of an overdose from narcotic drugs that were prescribed for pain during her stay at the hospital.
Hospital officials reinforced their belief that staff provided adequate medical service and also expressed condolences to the family. The jury for the hospital, Stan Thiebald, argued the hospital did not “overprescribe” the pain medications, citing that the dosages were within the proper standards. The plaintiffs stated that the facility had demonstrated poor management of records, failures to recognize that the patient had previously had an adverse reaction to Dilaudid, and failed to appropriately monitor Gann’s vital signs.
The defense claimed that the hospital staff had followed the same protocols which are also in place at five other hospitals in the region. In addition, the patient was determined to have an enlarged heart according to the autopsy records, which may have played a role. The cause of death was vaguely explained as being a respiratory problem. The plaintiffs felt that the death was avoidable if vital signs would have been checked at closer intervals. Staff responded by saying that they did not want to interrupt the patient while sleeping.
Kyle Citrano, the jury foreman, expressed heartfelt sympathy for the family; however, the jury felt that negligence was not clearly proven by the plaintiffs. Negligence was defined in this matter as a failure to exercise care in a quality or standard that an ordinary person would deem to be reasonable based on the circumstances. Citrano said the jury unanimously decided there was insufficient evidence to side with the plaintiff.
The plaintiffs used expert witnesses to argue their side of the case; however, jurors felt that the evidence simply did not indicate that the hospital caused the death. Gann had been given Narcan, a drug used to prevent drug overdoses, yet it was not administered until after the patient was discovered to be unconscious. Citrano summed up the case by saying that both sides presented a good argument, yet negligence did not appear to be the cause of death.
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