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$ 7.2M Verdict in Warren County, TN

By Leon Alligood
Associated Press/Nashville Tennessean writer
January 27, 2006

$7.2 million awarded in negligence lawsuit

The widow of a Tennessee Army National Guard sergeant who died in 2000 was awarded $7.2 million yesterday in a negligence lawsuit against River Park Hospital of McMinnville.

The jury returned a decision just before noon yesterday, after two days of deliberations.

According to the suit, Jewell Wayne Barkes, 48, of McMinnville died of a heart attack after he was examined and sent home without being seen by a doctor.

"Our theory is that everyone who goes into an emergency room should be seen by a doctor. It was the hospital's policy,'' said Nashville attorney David R. Smith, who along with Eddie Schmidt represented Debra Barkes in the lawsuit.

"Mr. Barkes wasn't seen by a physician, even though he had a history of heart disease in his family, a pulse of 100, he was a smoker with high cholesterol and he had left arm pain. He shouldn't have been sent home, but he was and he had a heart attack."

Warren County court officials said the multimillion-dollar judgment was the largest amount awar ded by a jury in county history.

Ed Fishbough, a spokesman for HCA, which operates River Park, said the company was "extremely disappointed by today's puzzling verdict" and will pursue an appeal if necessary.

"While the jury affirmed in their verdict our belief that all of the care provided was appropriate, they still ruled against the hospital," Fishbough said in a statement. "This is an obvious contradiction."

Debra Barkes was unavailable for comment. Smith said his client "felt vindicated that the hospital should have had a doctor look at her husband before he was sent home."


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