Circuit Judge Andy Matoesian
Granite City resident George Wolfe used to love his job as a building estimator. He also liked to cook, barbecue, help fix things at home and spend time with his wife, Donna, and their family in the backyard pool. That was until he suffered a stroke two years ago.
In a rare medical malpractice trial in Madison County Circuit Court, Wolfe, who is partially paralyzed, testified that sitting around his house all day and watching TV now is “boring.” Wolfe is seeking what could be millions of dollars in damages for pain, suffering, disability, medical expenses, lost wages, anxiety and depression.
Wolfe's attorney Robert Wilson of Granite City claims his client has had to spend more than $300,000 in medical bills so far and estimates lost wages and future medical expenses would come close to $3 million.
Last month a Madison County jury found in favor of Greenville Hospital in a medical malpractice trial. The plaintiff blamed the hospital for not diagnosing her late husband's pulmonary embolism.
Wolfe accuses Anderson Hospital physician Kevin Bell, M.D. of not admitting him into the hospital after he came to the Emergency Department on June 13, 2003, with symptoms of confusion and drowsiness. Wolfe was discharged, but returned two days later and was treated for a major stroke.
In his opening statements, defense attorney Tim Richards of Neville, Richards & Wuller in Belleville, emphasized that there was no doubt that Wolfe had devastating injuries, but nothing would have prevented the stroke from happening in the first place.
The eight-count suit, filed by George and Donna Wolfe on Dec. 15, 2003, originally named Anderson Hospital, Legatus Emergency Services, Sarah Scott, M.D. and Bell. All defendants except Bell settled with Wolfe and were dismissed from the suit.
The trial got under way Monday in Circuit Judge Andy Matoesian’s courtroom.
In the second day of the trial, Wilson showed jurors a video tape of a typical morning in Wolfe’s life now, including his regimen of taking medicine, personal grooming and hygiene.
“Does it take him a lot of time in the morning?” Wilson asked Donna Wolfe on the stand.
“Yes,” she answered. Donna Wolfe also testified that caring for her husband is a full time job. He is no longer able to work and is depressed and embarrassed by his condition, she said.
Jurors viewed more than a dozen bottles and containers of medicine that Wolfe takes daily, as well as a plastic bag which Wilson said contained Depends—disposable incontinence garments.
Wolfe sat beside his attorney in a regular chair for most of the day, except when he moved into his wheelchair to take the stand.
Wilson asked his client what a seizure feels like.
“Like you have absolutely no control over your body,” Wolfe said. “Your mind tells your body to do something but it doesn’t. It’s very frightening.”
An economist whose consulting firm handles litigation support services, testified that Wolfe’s nursing care and lost wages would exceed $1.6 million based on his life expectancy.
During cross examination of Leroy Grodman--who earned a doctorate degree from Vanderbilt University—Richards asked if his firm, Econotech, primarily worked in litigation support services.
Grodman said in the past 10 years he has retained 150 cases a year and that 85 percent of the cases were for plaintiff’s attorneys.
The jury—composed of six men, six women and one male alternate—is expected to begin deliberations Monday.