Kentucky Jury Awards Family $1.45 Million in Medical Malpractice Lawsuit

Kentucky Jury Awards Family $1.45 Million in Medical Malpractice LawsuitThe estate of James Milford Gray was recently awarded $1.45 million in punitive damages by a Fayette County, Kentucky Circuit Court jury in a medical malpractice lawsuit filed against St. Joseph Hospital for its alleged role in Gray's 1999 death.

The verdict was handed down earlier this week after a trial that lasted roughly three weeks. The family filed the lawsuit against the hospital, two of its physicians, a physician's assistant and three nurses, accusing them of negligence and not paying attention to the 39-year-old's symptoms or the medical tests that showed his life was in peril, the Fayette Herald-Leader reports.

St. Joseph has also been accused of "patient dumping," or when hospitals refuse treatment to uninsured or under-insured people who need immediate treatment – an illegal but recurring practice. The suit also states that Gray, who had a criminal record, was threatened by the hospital staff, who said they would call the police if he returned again.

On April 8, 1999, Gray, a paraplegic since he was a teenager, checked into the hospital's emergency room with abdominal pain, protracted constipation and vomiting, said the family's medical malpractice lawyer. Gray was then given a pain killer and an enema and discharged from the hospital.

Gray returned to the healthcare center the following day, alleging he had vomited all night and was suffering from severe abdominal pain. Blood tests showed his ailment was life-threatening, but the hospital then allegedly discharged him a second time. Gray allegedly returned to a family member's house, where he died several hours later. The death was determined to be caused by peritonitis and a ruptured peptic ulcer, the lawyer stated.

According to the National Library of Medicine, peritonitis is caused by an inflammation of the thin lining of the abdomen's inner wall. Though it can be deadly, if it is recognized and treatment is administered promptly, the risk of death decreases significantly.

Treatment options include heavy doses of antibiotic or surgery.

The family's lawyer stated he was content with the outcome of the trial.

"I feel really gratified in that the jury… saw that the hospital was grossly negligent in its treatment of Milford Gray," he said. "We greatly appreciate the jury in this case. They worked very hard. They deliberated for a long time, and their verdict was very courageous."