Four years after she was admitted to Liberty Regional Medical Center, a wrongful death suit for former LRMC chief operating room nurse Barbara Porter started in Liberty County State Court.
Opening arguments were given Wednesday before Judge Leon Braun in the Liberty County Justice Center.
The suit was filed by Porter’s widow, Kenneth, and his attorneys Craig Stafford and Jeff Arnold against Dr. Stephen Weiss, Dr. Colin Bader and Dr. Traiana Pacurar.
Porter was admitted to LRMC on the evening of July 29, 2011, complaining of gastric pain. She died the following evening. The death certificate noted the cause of death as cardiorespiratory arrest, acute myocardial infarction— commonly called a heart attack— and coronary artery disease.
The suit alleges the physicians were negligent in their care, treatment and diagnoses of Porter. It alleges the physicians focused only on possible gastric, abdominal and pancreatic medical issues while ignoring possible heart issues.
During opening statements, Stafford said Porter clearly didn’t get the care she should have. He said experts will testify that easy tests would have shown the problem that would have led to treatments that would have saved her life.
Weiss’ attorney, Chris Ray, said testimony would show that his client correctly diagnosed Porter’s medical condition and that she had a medical history of gastric disorders, not cardiac disease. Ray said Porter and Weiss had discussed her gastric issues six to eight weeks before her death. Ray also said his client’s intake form will show that Porter described her pain as gastrointestinal and esophageal disorders.
Pacurar’s attorney, Scott Bailey, and Badea’s attorney, Greg Talley, added that their evidence will show that Porter ignored advice two months earlier from a cardiologist that she should get a stress test because her symptoms also could indicate coronary artery disease.
Both attorneys added that the physicians requested that an electrocardiogram be performed during Porter’s admittance, and that the results showed abnormalities. They claim the negligent parties were staff nurses and respiratory therapists employed by LRMC. They said test results were recorded as being normal on Porter’s medical chart. That meant none of the attending physicians had reason to suspect coronary issues.
All three defense attorneys said a judgment had already been decided, and the plaintiff settled with LRMC admitting responsibility for the EKG error.
Opening arguments ended around 2 p.m. Eight women and six men make up the jury and alternates. After lunch, however, one of the alternates was released because of a death in the family.