Jury awards $4 million in DeTar malpractice suit

Oct. 28, 2010 at 5:28 a.m.

A jury found DeTar Hospital Navarro negligent Thursday in a 2008 surgery in which a surgical sponge was left inside a patient.

They awarded the patient, Ronald Molder, $4.08 million in damages.

According to court documents, Molder, 45 at the time, went to surgeon John Barber to have his gallbladder removed on Dec. 16, 2008.

In March 2009, Molder, of Victoria, was rushed to the emergency room with severe pain and a fever. A CT scan later revealed a surgical sponge had been left inside Molder and his gallbladder had, in fact, not been removed.

Barber was also named as a defendant in the case but was cleared of negligence.

His lawyer, Brett Rowe, of San Antonio, said Barber removed an abnormal mass where a sonogram showed the gallbladder should be and that Molder's initial symptoms improved after the surgery.

"So the removal of the gallbladder wasn't an issue in the case," Rowe said. "The jury said it was 100 percent the sponge."

Nurses are responsible for counting sponges and other supplies after surgeries, according to court documents. Barber wrote in his post-surgery report that the nurses twice confirmed the sponge count.

After the sponge was found, Molder underwent more surgeries and was hospitalized for 80 days, racking up $290,000 in medical bills. He remains incapacitated, according to witnesses for the plaintiff.

Ann Watson, of Houston, who represented the hospital, argued Molder suffered from abdomen problems before he came to DeTar, and the hospital should therefore only be responsible for "what's fair."

Watson was quoted as saying, "We are going to fully accept blame for the fact that there was a sponge left in him inadvertently," in a motion filed by the plaintiff. "It was not intentional, they certainly didn't do it on purpose, but we know it happened. We're not going to deny that. We never have."

Watson could not be reached for comment after the verdict and a spokesperson for the hospital said, "As it is a legal matter, we don't have a comment."

The attorney representing Molder, Jack Modesett, of Austin, declined to comment as well.

The jury did not award damages to Molder's wife and co-plaintiff, Emily Molder.

Judge Skipper Koetter presided over the trial, which began Oct. 18.



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