Newsroom | 06.27.2023 l Firm Announcements
‘A Bit Scary for Defense Lawyers:’ How a Tough Venue Played in Counsel’s Favor
By Lisa Willis
A Coral Gables attorney and his co-counsel blocked a medical worker’s attempt to recover more than $2 million for a series of injuries.
And the South Florida lawyer credits the jury for “seeing through” the failed attempts to collect in the sort of litigation that hospitals typically don’t win.
‘Sticklers for Following Directions’
Health First Inc., which does business as Cape Canaveral Hospital Inc. in Titusville, emerged victorious as attorney Norman Waas and co-counsel Karen Montas successfully defended the institution in a medical malpractice suit that began in 2016.
Plaintiff James Henry Hunt IV alleged negligence on the part of the hospital, a doctor and a medical practice.
But after taking over from the previous counsel, the pair of defense litigators was tasked with trying the case to show otherwise, and the jury verdict fell in its favor.
“The atmosphere has been a little scary as a defense lawyer but the jurisdiction of Brevard County in general and specifically in Titusville, [could] ferret through the evidence and come to a reasonable conclusion,” said Waas, who was a part of the jury-selection process.
The jury makeup included engineers affiliated with either the National Aeronautics and Space Administration or with companies that do work with NASA, spouses of people who worked in the space program, and a manager from Jeff Bezos’ spaceflight company, Blue Origin.
“There were a lot of scientifically minded people in the jury, and I think that that helped,” Waas said. “A lot of people, who given the nature of making of rockets and the life-or-death consequences that follow from it, are sticklers for following directions.”
‘He Knew Better’
Plaintiff counsel saw the jurors as perceptive enough to follow the defense’s claim that Hunt, a medical technician, had caused his own injuries.
“The patient worked in a hospital setting for 20-plus years, and it came out during trial that he had responded to Code Blues in the MRI suite before as an anesthesia tech,” Waas said. “He knew better.”
The jury listened, for instance, as defense counsel pushed back against claims in Hunt’s complaint. It heard for example, of an event where defense counsel alleged Hunt had taken an IV pole into the MRI suite, causing himself further injury.
“Not only did he know better, he had been told by both the nurse and the MRI technologists caring for him to sit down and wait patiently until they were ready for him,” Waas said. “If anything, this accident occurred simply because he didn’t follow directions.”
It was a defense win in a type of litigation that defense lawyers said hospitals have been rarely winning lately.
$2 Million Lawsuit
The original complaint centered on an incident in 2013, when Hunt visited Cape Canaveral Hospital for an MRI study.
Hunt had an IV pole attached to his arm, which had a metal component.
The complaint said when he entered the MRI suite, the magnetic force of the machine pulled the pole into the machine, resulting in injuries to Hunt’s shoulder, head and arm.
The lawsuit claimed the hospital had a duty to exercise reasonable care for Hunt’s safety but had failed to train its employees adequately on the proper protocol for admitting patients to the MRI suite.
Hunt sought damages for his injuries, including medical expenses, lost earnings, lost earning capacity, pain and suffering, mental anguish and the loss of the ability to live a normal life, seeking $2,126,177, Waas said.
Hunt also claimed Dr. David Jens Hilleren, who managed the MRI suite, and Brevard Physician’s Associates, neglected to educate the MRI suite personnel about the standard of care and correct protocol for admitting patients.
The jury unanimously voted against finding negligence on the part of Health First Inc., doing business as Cape Canaveral Hospital.
Waas said, “The jury’s unequivocal ruling, explicitly stating the absence of negligence on the part of Cape Canaveral Hospital’s employees, further solidifies the client’s trust in the firm.”
Daytona Beach counsel for the plaintiff, William Ogle and Parama Liberman of Ogle Law, did not return emails seeking comment by publication time.
Article as appeared in the Daily Business Review. Go to Law.com to read the full story.