A judge declared a mistrial Monday in a Birmingham woman’s wrongful death lawsuit against a former Regional Medical Center emergency room doctor, claiming the physician’s failure to diagnose her husband’s condition resulted in his death.
Calhoun County Circuit Judge Debra Jones’ ruling halted the case after a potential juror made a comment that could have tainted the jury panel during the jury selection process, she said. Jones said Monday she planned to reset the trial.
Around 10 a.m. Monday, 36 potential jurors were brought into Jones’ courtroom to answer questions. An attorney for plaintiff Angela Townsend, Ashley Peinhardt, spent about 30 minutes questioning the jury pool before a recess at noon, then continued questioning them for nearly an hour and a half after the court reconvened at 1 p.m. Jones declared the mistrial before Dr. Jesus Perez’s attorneys could speak to the jury pool.
While questioning the pool, Peinhardt told the potential jurors she and Townsend’s other lawyers would be responsible for determining how much Townsend would be owed in punitive damages if she won the case.
“At the end of this case, we will be asking you for a number that ends with million,” Peinhardt said.
Townsend, who was present in court, filed the wrongful death lawsuit against RMC, and physicians Brian Greene and Perez in March 2016, two years after her husband, John Townsend, died of a heart attack caused by shock from a pseudoaneurysm, which was described in the complaint as a hematoma caused by a leaking hole in an artery.
Townsend agreed earlier this month to dismiss RMC and Greene from the lawsuit
In the lawsuit, Townsend said her husband was taken March 17, 2014, to the ER after he complained of pain, swelling, redness and fluid buildup in his right groin. The complaint also asserted that lab results from the March 17 ER visit indicated recent bleeding.
Peinhardt said John Townsend was treated by Perez, who consulted Greene. Peinhardt said Greene also treated John Townsend.
Peinhardt said a pseudoaneurysm in John Townsend’s groin was one of five conditions he could have been diagnosed with by Perez and Greene.
Peinhardt said pseudoaneurysms can be fatal, and John Townsend’s could have been correctly diagnosed had Greene or Perez ordered a color Doppler ultrasound, which was recommended for him by another doctor.
“Neither one got the ultrasound test that, we say, would have diagnosed it,” Peinhardt said. “They would have worked on it that night and he would have lived.”
The following day, Peinhardt said, John Townsend was readmitted to the ER, where he died.
A few months before Townsend’s death, Peinhardt said, he had undergone surgery to repair an endovascular aneurysm, which placed him at risk for complications, including a pseudoaneurysm.
Both Townsend’s and Perez’s attorneys declined to comment further on the case.