Judge grants more appeal time in lawsuit
Circuit Judge Thomas Steptoe has granted more time for attorneys for Cherie and Tony Lawyer to file their appeal for a new trial in their lawsuit against Morgan County War Memorial Hospital. The request for additional time was filed May 31.
The couple sued the hospital, physicians Anthony A. DaSilva and Jeffrey T. Cook, and the Morgan County Commission (who then owned the hospital) over rabies vaccinations that Cherie Lawyer had in December, 2006, which led to medical complications.
In March, a jury in Morgan County Circuit Court denied the Lawyers compensation for damages.
Attorneys for the Lawyers now have until June 29 to file their motion for a new trial and the defendants have until July 30 to respond, said Circuit Court Deputy Clerk Helen Morris.
Oral arguments are expected to be heard at a hearing late this summer.
Cherie and Tony Lawyer sought $1.4 million in compensation for past medical bills and future medical care, along with
additional sums for pain, suffering and humiliation.
Defense attorneys won the case, which resulted in what is believed to be the longest trial in Morgan County history.
The jury trial lasted four weeks and four days, from February 13 though March 15. It was not widely reported at the time.
In their March verdict, a six-person jury found that Drs. Cook and DaSilva and the hospital didn’t deviate from any applicable standard of emergency medical care with respect to Cherie Lawyer’s treatment.
They also found that DaSilva didn’t fail to obtain informed consent from her in relation to the risks of rabies shots.
Filed in April 2009, the case was based on a December 9, 2006 encounter that one of the Lawyer children and their dog had with a rabid raccoon. Rabies vaccinations were recommended for the entire family by War Memorial Hospital emergency room staff.
Cherie Lawyer suffered severe abdominal pain, pancreatitis and loss of vision after the third rabies shot and discontinued the shots. She also developed diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and other conditions and immune system problems.
The Lawyers sued the hospital and doctors claiming negligence in her care and treatment. They alleged that the doctors didn’t properly explain the risks of the vaccinations.
Defense attorneys maintained that doctors, nurses and hospital exercised the degree of care and skill required of a reasonable health care provider.
They claimed that Lawyer’s injuries and damages weren’t caused or contributed to by any actions or negligence of the defendants, but were the result of side effects that can occur without negligence.
The unusual length of the trial was due to the number of witnesses and the nature of the issues, said Attorney Tyler Smith who, with Rochelle Moore, represents the hospital’s interests.
Issues concerned the pathophysiology of rabies vaccines and globulin, which is very complex, he said.
Vaccines have warning labels listing adverse effects and contraindications for different conditions.
For their case, the Lawyers maintained that Cheri Lawyer had a litany of medical conditions that were caused or worsened by the rabies vaccine.
Witnesses from different medical specialties spoke about the effects of the vaccines. Each side had challenges against the validity of the other side’s expert scientific opinions. These challenges were conducted before the judge, outside of the jury’s earshot and contributed to the trial’s length, Smith said.
Morgan County incurred $11,917 in jury fees and $1,150 for the court reporter — a total of $13,067 for the lengthy trial.
Judge Steptoe ordered the plaintiffs to reimburse the county for those court costs.