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On-call pulmonologist not liable for patient’s death

On Nov. 4, a jury declined to award damages to the family of a woman who died allegedly from an undiagnosed pulmonary embolism. In 2007, Peggy Jones went to an emergency room in Beaumont. The emergency room doctor called the office of Jones’ treating pulmonologist in Houston and reached Dr. Kenneth Lawrence Toppell, who was the pulmonologist on call for Jones’ treater but had had no contact with Jones. After this phone conversation, Jones was treated and released from the emergency room. She came back to the emergency room and was admitted. She died the same day. No autopsy was performed. Toppell contended it was the emergency room doctor’s duty to make any diagnosis. Defense counsel argued she died of an internal hemorrhage leading to heart and lung failure, not a pulmonary embolism.

McInnis v. Toppell, No. A183477

Court: 58th District Court, Jefferson County

Plaintiff’s Attorney: Mark C. Sparks, Provost ??? Umphrey, Beaumont

Defense Attorneys: Rick Callaway, Callaway & Associates, Houston; Joel Sprott, Sprott, Rigby, Newsom, Robbins & Lunceford, Houston


Jury sides with defense in rear-ender case

On Oct. 26, a jury declined to award damages to a plaintiff who claimed lower back injuries in a rear-ender. In 2008, Ana Flores was driving in Houston near Lockwood Drive and Interstate 45. She stopped behind another car at a flashing red light. Gabriel Castillo then rear-ended her. Castillo said he was stopped behind Flores. He said he took his foot off the brake as Flores began to move forward, but that Flores then stopped again suddenly.

Flores v. Castillo, No. 2009-64361

Court: 157th District Court, Harris County

Plaintiffs’ Attorneys: Cynthia Frederick and Carlette White, Frederick Law Firm, Houston

Defense Attorney: Michael W. Cooper, Cooper, Jackson & Boanerges, Houston


Parties involved in collision settle for $450,000

On Sept. 30, a driver who claimed that he sustained a lumbar herniation in a high-speed collision agreed to a $450,000 settlement. In 2008, David Thompson was heading north on FM 219 in Erath County at about 60 mph. David Fine, who was in the course and scope of his employment with J.W. Grand Canyon Dairy, pulled out from a private drive and crossed FM 219 to get to the other side of the company’s property. Thompson hit his brakes to avoid hitting Fine, but the cars collided and the plaintiff’s vehicle landed in a ditch on the east side of the highway. He was diagnosed with a lumbar disk herniation with nerve impingement. He underwent a laminectomy with nerve decompression.

Thompson v. JW Grand Canyon Dairy LLC, No. CV-30262

Court: 266th District Court, Erath County

Plaintiff Attorney: Ryan H. Zehl, Fitts Zehl, Houston

Defense Attorney: Randall G. Walters, Walters, Balido & Crain, Dallas


No award for disk injury claim resulting from crash

On Oct. 27, a jury declined to award damages to a man who claimed a disk injury in a left-turn crash. In 2007, Adam Louviere was struck by Sheryl Yanga who made a left turn from the wrong lane. An MRI showed an L5-S1 disk protrusion, and Louviere claimed lower back pain. His first chiropractic treatment was a month after the accident. He also consulted with an orthopedic surgeon once. The defense argued that Louviere was not injured in the accident and that the protruding disk was from chronic degenerative disk disease.

Louviere v. Yanga, No. 2009-08659

Court: 234th District Court, Harris County

Plaintiff’s Attorney: Michael A. Moriarty, Moriarty Law Firm, Houston

Defense Attorney: Ed Wallison, Rathwell, De Ford & Wallison, The Woodlands

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