Husband awarded $6 million in wrongful death lawsuit

The medical malpractice, wrongful death civil case jury of eight people unanimously awarded Terrance Fountaine $6,067,830. The jury deliberated for four hours after a week-and-a-half jury trial this month in the courtroom of Judge Gregory Singer.

The plaintiffs argued that Karla Fountaine, 34, died from a gestational hypertension stroke because Dr. Cheryl Gill and Good Samaritan Hospital staff failed to diagnose pre-eclampsia and eclampsia during the course of her pregnancy. Fountaine died March 4, 2009 after an emergency Cesarean section.

Good Samaritan settled out of court with the plaintiffs before this trial.

Plaintiff attorney Dwight Brannon said that Gill — who died in January — was only qualified to handle pregnancies without complications.

Brannon said that when Karla Fountaine developed high blood pressure, vomiting, nausea and headaches, a more qualified OB/GYN was on staff but wasn’t called in. The attorney said the Fountaines’ son, Carlos, was in the hospital for two weeks but survived and is fine.

“The jury found … that Cheryl Gill, D.O, and Advanced Family Practice, Inc., did negligently depart from the accepted standards of medical practice in the care and treatment of Karla Fountaine,” reads the verdict signed by Singer. “The jury further found … that the negligence of Cheryl Gill, D.O, and Advanced Family Practice, Inc., was a direct and proximate cause of Karla Fountaine’s death.”

The verdict included $2.25 million for the wrongful death, about $2.1 million for loss of future earnings and more than $1.66 millon in other damages. Brannon said he asked the jury for about $5.5 million. The $6 million award is one of the area’s largest in a wrongful death suit, according to court sources.

“The jury must have found (medical staff) unnecessarily endangered the patient — hopefully it’s a practice that will stop,” Brannon told this news organization on Friday.

Karla Fountaine was discharged from the hospital during the four-day period in which her symptoms worsened and she died, Brannon said, adding that Gill didn’t visit the expectant mother when she was re-admitted.

“I want this to be a lasting reminder to all physicians who fail to take the time to listen, examine and properly treat their patients,” Terrance Fountaine said in a press release.

Terrance Fountaine declined further comment, according to plaintiff’s attorney Michael Wright.

Defense attorney Neil Freund declined to comment.

Brannon said that he believes the decision will not be appealed.

“There were some nurses on this jury,” Brannon said. “They usually go with the medical community and, in this case, they understood the medicine and they understood what had happened, and that was really good to see.”

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