Fallon malpractice case debated before Supreme Court
June 11, 2003
The Nevada Supreme Court is debating whether to overturn a $9 million malpractice judgment awarded a woman who will have to be fed intravenously for the rest of her life.
A district court awarded Rosetta Mullins-Sarver the money after Dr. James Hockenberry failed to diagnose her as having a bowel obstruction. As a result, a surgeon wasn’t called until so late that her entire small intestine had to be removed. Since that is where the body processes food, Sarver, who was 17 at the time, must be fed intravenously — a process which takes more than six hours and costs up to $400 a day.
Hockenberry’s lawyer Daniel Polsenberg argued there wasn’t enough evidence to support the claim Hockenberry’s care was below the medical standard. He said it was “a very rare case” because she didn’t have symptoms of a bowel obstruction until just one day before surgery. Polsenberg said if the court doesn’t overturn the $9 million award, it should send the case back to district court for a new trial.
But Sarver’s lawyer Robert Perry told the court Hockenberry believed the woman was trying to get drugs from him by complaining of pain. Perry said had he diagnosed what was really wrong, part of her small intestine could have been saved.
The high court took the case under submission.