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Jury Awards $19.7M In Medical Error Death Of Woman

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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – A Dallas County jury today delivered a $19.7 million verdict against a local doctor on behalf of the family of Katina Clark, who spent more than a year in a permanent vegetative state before her death following brain damage she sustained as a patient at the same hospital where she worked as a surgical technician.

The verdict handed to Judge Sally Montgomery of County Court No. 3 followed slightly more than two weeks of trial and less than three hours of deliberations. The jury's entire $19.7 million award for actual damages was issued against Dr. Jennifer Marye Burris and her employer, Acute Surgical Care Specialists PLLC of Plano.

Ms. Clark's family was represented at trial by attorneys Chris Hamilton and Stephen Blackburn of the Dallas law firm Standly Hamilton.

"We are thankful to the jury and the court for their hard work in this case, which ended with the right result," says Mr. Hamilton. "No amount of money will bring back Katina, and she never should have died. Our hope is that this verdict will cause other health care professionals to take better care of their patients."

A resident of Burleson, Ms. Clark was admitted to Medical Center Arlington in the summer of 2013 after experiencing leg numbness. She had worked at the hospital as a surgical technician since 2005. She was diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), a rare medical condition affecting the nervous system. GBS patients experience muscle weakness that sometimes requires temporary mechanical assistance with breathing. The majority of these patients recover completely once their symptoms have passed.

After Ms. Clark was admitted, she was fitted with a breathing tube through her mouth that eventually was changed to a tracheostomy tube through an incision in her neck. Although Ms. Clark could not speak because of the procedure, she initially was awake and functioning normally otherwise.

Trial evidence showed that the trachea insertion caused Ms. Clark to receive less than half of the air that was intended, but that Dr. Burris failed to properly monitor her or fix the leak. The next morning, the leaking tube became dislodged, robbing Ms. Clark of oxygen for 35 minutes and leaving her with severe brain damage.

Ms. Clark's husband, Caden, spent the next year and half caring for their two young children and visiting her at a local nursing home before she passed away in January 2015.

(©2016 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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