Weber-fearing plaintiff's attorney taking med mal case to trial

By Steve Gonzalez | May 9, 2007

A case that was once dismissed because former Madison County Circuit Judge Don Weber would not approve a judge substitution days before the trial was set to begin last September has finally started in Circuit Judge Barbara Crowder's courtroom.

Three days before trial was set to begin, plaintiff attorney David Damick of St. Louis dismissed Mary Baugus' complaint against James Dalla-Riva, M.D. of Maryville. Her suit alleged Dalla-Riva performed a total hysterectomy without medical justification.

At the time Damick admitted that he did not know Weber and did not have an opinion about him, but informed Weber that other attorneys told him that he should file a change.

He also admitted he was ready to go to trial, telling Weber that the plaintiff's experts were paid, hotel rooms were booked and plane tickets reserved.

Damick said he based his decision on the political endorsement Weber received from a doctor's political action committee --SMASH-- and that Weber's campaign material states he would "weed out med-mal suits." Weber lost his election bid to David Hylla in November.

Weber denied Damick's motion because he thought the purpose was to delay the trial. After Weber's ruling, Damick apparently drove back to his office and drafted a voluntary dismissal.

A hearing on the motion to dismiss was waived because Michael Pitzer of St. Louis, Dalla-Riva's attorney, agreed to the motion to dismiss.

Baugus originally filed suit Dec. 27, 2003, claiming she was caused great physical injury and has endured great physical and mental pain and suffering.

The suit was re-filed in late 2006, and assigned to now-retired Judge Lola Maddox. Her cases transferred to Crowder after the November election.

The suit also claimed Baugus injured her bladder, peritoneum and vagina, and she claimed increased infections, abdominal pain and distress, small bowel obstructions, scarring and vesicovaginal fistula which caused her to undergo additional medical and surgical treatments.

According to her complaint, Baugus claims she is required to wear adult diapers due to incontinence, and that she has been required to get catheterizations and make adjustments to her daily life to accommodate her medical disability.

Baugus claimed Dalla-Riva removed both ovaries and tubes because he improperly interpreted a pelvic ultrasound or accepted notations which were unreliable and inaccurate.

She claimed Dalla-Riva improperly prepared for surgery because he failed to evaluate for bladder and ureteral integrity at the conclusion of surgery on Jan. 4, 2002.

The suit also claimed Dalla-Riva failed to suture the anterior peritoneal edge behind the bladder to the anterior cuff and failed to take steps to impose another layer of tissue between the bladder surface and the vaginal vault.

The trial is expected to last until late next week.

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