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Verdict Rendered in Kentucky Wrongful Death

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Lexington, KY (Press Release)Derrick Donovan Willis was a two-month-old infant admitted to the hospital via the Emergency Department for bronchiolitis on January 24, 2010. After two days of treatment, Baby Donovan’s condition worsened into respiratory failure. The attending pediatrician requested assistance in intubating the infant and the Defendant emergency physician responded to the request for assistance despite having never intubated an infant before in his career. The endotracheal tube was initially placed into the right mainstem bronchus and later retracted. Despite intubation, Baby Donovan’s respiratory status worsened and he died on January 26, 2010.

The attending pediatrician and hospital settled the claims against them prior to trial.

At trial, Plaintiffs alleged negligence on the part of the Defendant emergency room physician in that he had never intubated an infant before, that he did not remain with the patient to confirm placement of the endotracheal tube, and he did not remain with the patient until the patient’s airway was stabilized as required by the applicable standard of care. The Plaintiffs’ experts testified that the infant’s airway was not properly managed and that the endotracheal tube became dislodged in the trachea, causing Baby Donovan to suffer oxygen deprivation and suffocate.

In addition, the Plaintiffs alleged that the Defendant physician’s employer negligently hired and supervised him, in that they never undertook to determine whether the Defendant physician had been adequately trained in caring for pediatric patients. The Defendant physician’s training and practice prior to joining the emergency room group focused almost exclusively on the care of adults.

The Defendants argued that the Defendant physician had no duty to remain with the patient following insertion of the tube because the attending pediatrician was present in the room. In addition, the Defendants’ pediatric critical care physician opined that oxygen deprivation was not the cause of Baby Donovan’s death. Instead, he contended, Baby Donovan suffered from an enlarged heart that went undiagnosed and that the failure to treat the enlarged heart on the part of the hospital staff and attending pediatrician was the cause of Baby Donovan’s death. Because the Defendant physician’s superior had ordered the initial x-rays and admitted Baby Donovan to the hospital based upon his review of those x-rays, the Defendants’ expert testified on cross-examination that the Defendant’s superior deviated from the standard of care in failing to diagnose the enlarged heart and caused Baby Donovan’s death. As a result, the defendant emergency medical group faced liability under both the Plaintiffs’ and Defendants’ theories of the case. After a day of deliberation, the jury found the Defendant emergency physician and Defendant emergency practice group negligent and awarded damages to the Plaintiffs in the amount of $6,152,618.37. The award comprised medical expenses, pain and suffering, loss of affection and companionship, as well as damages for negligent hiring and supervision against the defendant physician’s employer.

The case is SHARA WILLIS, Individually, and DERRICK E. WILLIS and SHARA WILLIS, as the Administrators of the Estate of DERRICK DONOVAN WILLIS vs. JOHN PAUL SHORT, D.O.; ASHLAND EMERGENCY MEDICAL ASSOCIATES, P.S.C. (COMMONWEALTH OF KENTUCKY; BOYD CIRCUIT COURT, DIVISION II; CIVIL ACTION NO. 10-CI-1396).


Spurgeon and Tinker is a Kentucky civil litigation claim law firm with offices in Lexington and Paintsville. When working with individuals, Sandra Spurgeon focuses on recovering damages for victims and families suffering from a catastrophic injury. Both Sandra and partner William W. Tinker, III also have an extensive civil practice. The respected legal team of Spurgeon and Tinker has 42 years of combined legal experience. The firm has successfully litigated cases at both the circuit and appellate levels in the Kentucky and federal courts.

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