Jury Finds 2 Doctors Negligent

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Stroke victim is awarded $800,000

by Brigitte Ruthman
Waterbury Republican-American

March 24, 2001

LITCHFIELD, CONN. — William Taylor, wheelchair-bound since March 1993, won $800,00 Friday when a six-person jury agreed with him that two Winsted doctors failed to treat a stroke that left him paralyzed.

The verdict, reached after less than five hours of deliberation and 14 days of testimony, found that both doctors acted negligently. Taylor was awarded $450,000 in damages and $350,000 for pain and suffering.

"It was a very tough decision," jury foreman Ben Keating said. "We were split initially. This verdict is a compromise. Some of us believed he should have gotten more and some didn't believe he should have received anything. We were deadlocked. It took a lot of deliberation."

Taylor, a Vietnam veteran and father of four, was relieved Friday but said the money won't enable him to play the piano or work in the garden like he used to.

Winsted Memorial Hospital attorney Donna Zito, who argued during the trial that the hospital gave Taylor reasonable care and suggested his weight and smoking were to blame, would not comment Friday.

Taylor maintained during the civil trial at Litchfield Superior Court that the emergency room doctors Gregory Kresel and Glen Lovejoy denied him proper care March 10, 1993, when they failed to diagnose early stages of a stroke. Lovejoy sent him home to schedule a follow-up evaluation with his personal physician five days later.

Taylor returned to the emergency room March 12, 1993, suffering from a stroke. He has been confined to a wheelchair ever since.

Keating, the jury foreman, said Lovejoy's testimony was the "Achilles heel" in the hospital's case. Unlike criminal juries, juries in civil cases decide liability, not guilt or innocence.

According to testimony, Dr. Kessel ordered a CAT scan of Taylor's brain March 10, 1993, turning the procedure over to Dr. Lovejoy when he left at 7:00 a.m. Results showed swelling on Taylor's brain.

Lovejoy testified none of the available medications could help the swelling, but Dr. Harris Fisk, a plaintiff's expert witness from Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles, disagreed, saying Lovejoy could have given Taylor Heparin to stop the clotting, or aspirin, a blood thinner.

"No treatment was not an option," Taylor's Bridgeport attorney Josh Koskoff said. "The emergency room blew him off."

On the witness stand, Lovejoy said he consulted another doctor, internist Dr. Roy Hitt, who agreed with the plan to send Taylor home with no treatment, Hitt, however, testified he was in Florida at the time and wasn't contacted, producing car rental documents to verify his whereabouts.

"It is pretty much black and white that hospitals don't send people home with a stroke, which is the third leading cause of death in this country," Koskoff said. "If you sit on a stroke you'll remove any chance of treating it. It is among the leading causes of disability, and emergency rooms need to react appropriately."

This jury was the second to hear the case. Superior Court Judge Alexandra DiPentima declared a mistrial last October when six jurors told her they were hopelessly deadlocked. Koskoff took over for Taylor from former lead attorney Christopher Bernard.

Taylor initially asked for $2 million last year to make up for lost wages as a certified nurse anesthetist, his inability to walk and dance, and for depression and anxiety. He also needed money to pay for home health care aides to perform the tasks he and his wife can no longer perform.

Taylor and his attorney said the $800,000 will pay for his physical; therapy and a new wheelchair.

Winsted Memorial hospital went bankrupt in 1996, but its liability insurance carrier St. Paul Insurance Co., remains liable for damages. The Winsted Health Center Foundation opened the Winsted Health Center in1997. The 12-hour-a-day emergency and ambulatory surgery center is operated by the medical staff of Charlotte Hungerford Hospital in Torrington. Neither doctor is affiliated with the Health Center, spokesman Ken Roberts said