A Houston-area women is suing Pasadena lawyer Albert Lee Giddens, alleging he was negligent by failing for months to file a medical-malpractice suit on her behalf, then withdrawing from representation without giving her time to find another attorney to file suit for her.
“Giddens’ inaction and conduct fell below the standard of care for an attorney handling this type of case, and his negligence barred Plaintiff from her rightful recovery,” Bettie Conner alleges in her Sept. 30 petition filed in the 127th District Court in Harris County.
Giddens did not return a telephone message or respond to an email request for comment.
Conner alleges in the petition that she entered into a contingent-fee contract with Giddens in July 2011 to bring a medical-malpractice suit against a hospital and “medical professionals” connected to a 2006 hysterectomy.
After the surgery, Conner alleges in the petition, she “complained of flu-like symptoms, weakness in her legs, fatigue, dizziness, and pain in her knees, back, and abdomen.” She alleges that her symptoms did not allow her to take care of her handicapped sister and teenage son.
She alleges that on July 7, 2011, a physician in an emergency room at another hospital in Houston requested an X-ray and discovered that “medical providers from the 2006 procedure . . . negligently left at least one surgical sponge inside of the Plaintiff.” She alleges she underwent emergency surgery that day to remove the sponge or sponges, and she hired Giddens a week after she was discharged from the hospital on July 11, 2011.
Conner alleges that, even though the original surgery was in 2006, the two-year statute of limitations under the Medical Liability and Insurance Improvement Act (MLIIA) did not apply, because the Texas Supreme Court “carved an exception for medical negligence hidden from lay discovery” in its 1985 opinion in Neagle v. Nelson.
“However, while this exception provided a reprieve from strict limits of MLIIA, courts have required that patients act diligently once they discover the injury and may not unreasonably delay filing suit,” Conner alleges in the petition.
During the nine months Giddens represented her, her son contacted Giddens several times for a status update, she alleges.
“Each time, Giddens reassured Plaintiff and her son that ‘it was a good case;’ and that ‘we’re about to go to court,’ ” Giddens alleges in the petition.
Giddens contacted her in March 2012, she continues, to “advise her that he was no longer interested in the case because he was about to retire” and he stated in his termination letter that he was returning her file because he could not find a medical expert. He also “negligently misrepresented” to her that the case was barred by the statute of limitations, yet she had two years from the date of discovery to file suit.
Conner alleges she tried to find another attorney, but could not.
“Despite the fact that Texas Courts have described surgical sponge cases as the rare ‘res ispa loquitur’ types of cases — where the existence of the injury itself proves the negligence — no attorney would accept Plaintiff’s case because the lapse of time,” Conner alleges.
In her petition in Bettie Conner v. Albert Lee Giddens, she seeks unspecified actual damages, fee forfeiture, attorney fees, costs and interest from Giddens.
Conner’s attorney, Ross Sears, of Sears ☆ Crawford of Houston, says case law is clear.
“He’s saying he couldn’t find an expert to help him,” Sears says. “There’s not an expert on the planet who won’t say that leaving a sponge in a patient’s body isn’t negligence.”