Jury deliberates late Friday in '04 med mal case

By Christina Stueve Hodges | Mar 22, 2013

A Madison County jury is continuing to deliberate Friday evening following a week-long medical malpractice trial against a Highland doctor.

Russell Darbon of Edwardsville claims Dr. Jose Diaz Jr.'s alleged negligence caused the death of his ex-wife.

Jurors in Circuit Judge William Mudge's court left to deliberate at 11:30 a.m. and continued after 5 p.m.

Darbon, 48, claims Diaz failed to diagnose a kidney infection that ultimately killed Virginia Gettys, then 43, of Highland.

Darbon testified earlier during the week that he filed the lawsuit for his and Gettys' children, Madison and Brawley.

Plaintiff’s attorney Eric Carlson asked jurors to award his client $1.579 million during closing arguments Friday. He requested $73,000 for medical expenses, $6,400 in damages, and $750,000 for each of the two children.

According to the lawsuit, Diaz was responsible for Virginia Gettys when he admitted her to St. Joseph's Hospital in Highland, Jan. 16, 2004, as an attending physician.

Diaz has been accused of failing to diagnose Gettys' kidney infection; failing to recognize the urine showed evidence of a urinary tract infection; failing to obtain a urine culture when the initial urinalysis showed white cells and red cells in the urine; and performing a surgery that was unnecessary when CT scans showed no evidence of surgical pathology, and urinalysis showed signs of a urinary tract infection, the suit claims.

Carlson accused the defense of attempting to confuse the jury and “muddle the water as much as they can.”

“The evidence shows there was negligence. This negligence caused great harm,” Carlson said.

Carlson described Darbon as a “good hard-working guy” who lived a dream when he met his wife in Las Vegas and later married in Jamaica. The couple was divorced about 10 years later.

When defense attorney Timothy Richards walked to the podium, he praised the jury for staying awake through four video taped depositions.

Richards, who accused Carlson of spinning the testimony of one of the expert witnesses, said Diaz did his job.

“The evidence is overwhelming that he did not do anything negligent,” Richards said.

Gettys had a disease which did not declare itself in any way, according to Richards.

“The evidence shows Dr. Diaz did not act wrongly. Dr. Diaz did an exploratory laparotomy on this patient,” he said.

Her death was primarily cardiac in nature, Richards explained.

“This woman was admitted with a diagnosis before tests were even done,” Carlson said.

This trial is the second one held in the case.

Diaz won the first trial in 2009 in a case brought by Darbon as executor of the estate of Gettys.

Circuit Judge Barbara Crowder, who presided over that tial, ordered a new trial after a defense expert violated a motion in limine during his testimony when he mentioned the word "leukemia."

Madison County case number 04-L-1427

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