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Jury returns verdict for ER doctor in medical malpractice suit

A Jackson County jury found in favor of an emergency room physician accused of negligence in a case that resulted in a woman’s death.

The jury returned the defense verdict May 6 following a five-day trial and about two hours of deliberations.

Brian L. Burge of Sanders Warren & Russell in Overland Park, Kansas, represented the defendant, Dr. Patrick Greenwood, of St. Luke’s East Hospital in Lee’s Summit. He said he and his client were relieved by the verdict.

“I think our theme all along had been that you had a delicate patient that you can’t always give the particular test that you want for any given patient because that person may have contraindications, other diseases, and it doesn’t allow you to give the best test,” he said.

Lee’s Summit resident Dan Heydon sued Greenwood in July 2014 over the death of his mother, Loretta C. Heydon.

The case went back to a January 2013 emergency room visit where Heydon, 89, sought treatment for abdominal pain and vomiting, according to the petition.

Greenwood was the first physician to treat Loretta Heydon. He examined her and ordered pain medications and a CT scan before discharging her from the ER.

She died within two days at the hospital. Her cause of death was mesenteric ischemia, or inadequate blood flow resulting in a gangrenous bowel.

The condition is often described as being a heart attack of the bowel, where a blood clot in the vessel feeding into the bowel disrupts and stops blood flow, causing tissue damage, Burge said.

“It’s very hard to diagnose because it has non-specific complaints,” he said, adding that it’s a rare condition affiliated with abdominal pain.

Dan Heydon alleged Greenwood was negligent and careless in his evaluation of Loretta Heydon and failed to order the proper pain medications in a timely manner and immediately order a surgical consultation, delaying her diagnosis and causing her death.

Greenwood denied all of the allegations made against him in his answer to the petition.

M. Blake Heath of Kansas City represented Dan Heydon. He asked the jury to consider awarding damages in the range of $900,000 to $1.5 million.

The case came down to the CT scan Greenwood ordered, and how it was not done with contrast, or dye, Burge said.

“Not everyone can tolerate contrast, and this woman was one of those patients,” Burge said. “She really didn’t have the kidney function that would have allowed her to tolerate contrast … our theme was really that the doctor made the safest choice at the time based on the information he had.”

Dan Heydon also filed suit against another ER physician who was dismissed prior to trial.

Heath said he was disappointed by the verdict.

“I know that the family was certainly disappointed as well, that was one of my biggest concerns,” he said, adding the jury was respectful of the family and took their time deliberating the case.

Defense verdict

Type of Action: Wrongful death

Venue: Jackson County Circuit Court

Case Number/Date: 1416-CV15964/May 6, 2016

Judge: Jack Grate

Plaintiff’s Experts: Dr. Kenneth Stein, St. Louis (Emergency medicine)

Defendant’s Experts: Dr. Daniel Bixler, Lee’s Summit (Emergency medicine) Dr. Chapman Olive, Springfield (Surgical)

Last Pretrial Demand: $900,000 to $1.5 million

Last Pretrial Offer: None

Caption: Dan Heydon v. Patrick Greenwood, M.D.

Plaintiff’s Attorneys: M. Blake Heath, Kansas City; Jared A. Rose, Kansas City

Defendant’s Attorneys: Brian L. Burge and Kaitlin Marsh-Blake, Sanders Warren & Russell, Overland Park, Kansas.

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