SHERIDAN — After six days of witness testimony and approximately two hours of jury deliberations, the 12-member jury returned a verdict unanimously in favor of Sheridan Memorial Hospital in the civil lawsuit filed by Neal and Anita Schuman for medical negligence.
Neal Schuman filed complaints of medical malpractice and negligence but the jury ended the six-day trial with one direction: to decide whether SMH showed medical negligence during Schuman’s medical care following elective knee surgery July 27, 2015. The then 77-year-old man’s complications resulted in a permanent colostomy bag after SMH completed four surgeries to remove Fournier’s gangrene from his perineal area.
The jury listened to the hospital’s final witness, Dr. Derek Gilbert, to start the final day of the trial. Gilbert oversaw Schuman’s care while in the intensive care unit at SMH.
During his testimony, Gilbert said he did not believe there was anything he or the medical staff working with Schuman could have done differently or earlier to prevent Fournier’s gangrene.
In cross examination, Schuman’s attorney, Drake Hill, returned to the indicators of infection in the increased white blood cell count and undocumented complaints by Schuman of pain in his pelvic area.
Gilbert said in response to a jury question that it is impossible to know the most probable cause of the gangrene.
In closing arguments, Hill said the care Schuman received did not meet the standards of care required of the medical professionals. Hill said his expert witness, Dr. Jeffrey Selwyn, testified to the gangrene as a “smouldering infection” starting with the improper administration of an enema. He also said the medical records were still silent regarding the painful enema Schuman testified to, and because of that enema and supposed subsequent “smouldering infection” that resulted in Fournier’s gangrene, Schuman must live with a colostomy bag for the rest of his life.
Hill asked the jury to consider payments to the Schuman’s from SMH as the responsible entity in charge of all of its medical personnel in the amount totaling $1.4 million.
Hospital attorney Scott Ortiz discounted Selwyn’s expert testimony and credited the unfortunate infection of Fournier’s gangrene partially to Schuman’s preexisting conditions, one being atrial fibrillation.
Ortiz also discounted Hill’s statement from Selwyn of Fournier’s gangrene as a smouldering infection.
Hill said in his rebuttal closing statement that the defendant’s case has dissolved under the weight of his own witnesses and that theories of possible sources or causes of the Fournier’s gangrene went unfounded. He asked the jury rhetorically how many times did Schuman and his family have to report pain for it to be pain?
The jury of 12 — comprised of six men and six women — came to the verdict that the medical professionals caring for Schuman were not negligent in his medical care throughout his stay at SMH.
Immediately following the final verdict, Hill and the Schuman family met to debrief together, and hospital CEO Mike McCafferty said it would be best to speak at a later date about the outcome of the trial.
The hospital will not be required to pay damages to the Schuman family.