by Michael P. Mayko
November 14, 2007
BRIDGEPORT — Greg Ackley never held a full-time job, but he loved to tell people he finished first in his graduating class.
That was by virtue of the spelling of his last name.
Many Lordship residents would wave to him as he rode by on his bike. When they learned the 47-year-old mentally disabled man had died Feb. 27, 1999, at St. Vincent's Medical Center, a little part of their life died, too.
On Tuesday, a six-member Superior Court jury awarded Ackley's estate $3.5 million after finding that his treatment at the hospital that day was negligent and constituted medical malpractice. "The jury determined his death was preventable," said John Jessep, a lawyer with Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder, which represented Ackley's estate. "This was a purely noneconomic verdict. My client did not have a full-time job. But the verdict shows a jury can evaluate anyone from any walk of life and assess fair damages."
The verdict ended a two-week trial before Superior Court Judge Deborah Frankel. Jessep said St. Vincent's turned down a proposal to settle the suit for $3 million. A St. Vincent's spokesman said the verdict will be appealed.
"St. Vincent' s would like to express its deepest sympathy to the Ackley family for their loss. We believe Mr. Ackley received appropriate medical treatment and are disappointed with this decision," said Noreen McNicholas, the Medical Center's director of marketing and communications. "We remain committed to providing the highest quality of health care to all of our patients."
Paul Williams and Barbara Burke of Day Pitney, in Hartford, represented St. Vincent's.
Jessep said Ackley was brought to St. Vincent's by his elderly father, Lawrence, on Feb. 27, 1999. At the time Ackley apparently was suffering from pneumonia.
"His body was being starved of oxygen," Jessep said. "They failed to provide proper supplemental oxygen."
As a result, Jessep said Ackley's heart became overworked and eventually stopped.
The lawsuit accused the hospital of failing to administer proper respiratory care, to monitor his heart rate and frequency of respiration and admit him.
"People lovingly called him the mayor of Lordship," Jessep said. "He would ride around helping people stopping to shovel their snow, work on their homes. Several of them testified."