A Ford County jury recently awarded a jurisdictional record $950,000 to the family of a 73-year-old Gibson City man who died as a result of alleged negligence in a local clinic.
After four hours of deliberation on Dec. 11, the jury reached the verdict that marks the highest in a civil trial in Ford County. According to John Kirkton of the Jury Verdict Reporter, the largest previous verdict or settlement in that county was $370,000 in 2007.
Attorneys at Clifford Law Offices in Chicago, Keith A Heibeisen and Sarah F. King represented the family of David Buhs. According to their claim, Buhs had made two visits to the emergency room and his primary care physician with complaints of chest pain. Neither Dr. David Hagan of the Gibson City Clinic or the emergency room ordered cardiac testing, monitoring or referrals for Buhs, according to the complaint.
On October 9, 2008, Buhs was again admitted to the hospital and still did not receive the proper tests or cardiac treatment, the complaint alleged. He was kept at the hospital where further testing was done, monitoring his fluctuating heart rate and pulse. Three days later, he was discharged, but soon returned to the hospital and died before the day was over.
“The liability and the causation elements of the case were very strong,” said Sarah F. King, attorney for the Buhs family.
A jury of five men and seven women found Hagan and Gibson City Clinic responsible for the alleged negligence that purpotedly contributed to Buhs' death. The local hospital emergency room and doctor who also treated Buhs was not found liable.
Hagan was accused of not ordering the proper diagnostic testing for issues such as cardiac ischemia, atherosclerosis, and hardening of the arteries, in addition to not drawing cardiac enzymes. The plaintiff also claimed Hagan failed to diagnose the “transmural myocardial infarction which led to the rupture of the left ventricular wall,” which allegedly caused his death on October 12, 2008, according to the News–Gazette.
“The party that was found guilty never made any sort of offer of settlement before the ruling. The hospital and the doctor affiliated with it did make an offer of $50,000 each to settle, but their party was not found guilty,” said King.
Ford County is not known for its medical malpractice cases. According to King, this case was the first of its kind. For the verdict to be so high, it could set a new precedent for medical malpractice cases.
“I think that it helped open up avenues of justice for other patients in the Ford County area. It goes to show that the standard of medical care are the same across the state, and members of the community are willing to give a fair trial, regardless of what county you live in," King said.
Buhs is survived by his wife, Judy and his four children. As of right now, King said the defense is not expected to appeal the case.