Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Infection death award $4.1M

By Kevin Aldridge
The Cincinnati Enquirer

A Hamilton County jury awarded $4.1 million Tuesday to the family of a 45-year-old Finneytown woman whose abdominal infection was misdiagnosed by two surgeons and eventually led to her death.

The verdict - which is $1.3 million more than lawyers asked for - is thought to be one of the largest such verdicts in the county.

The family of Kimberly Howcroft sued Dr. Lawrence Bartish and Dr. Victor Van Gilse in 2001 for failing to properly diagnose and treat an aggressive form of soft tissue infection in her abdominal area. The infection developed after Howcroft had surgery in February 2001 at Mercy Franciscan Hospital Mount Airy for a ruptured appendix.

The jury found that Bartish and Van Gilse, partners in a medical practice, failed to recognize and properly treat Howcroft's infection in subsequent post-operative exams. Howcroft died less than a week after Bartish performed the initial surgery.

"While I'm happy the jury did find in our favor, that will never make it right," said Kerry Howcroft, Kimberly's Howcroft's 23-year-old daughter. "It was such an unnecessary tragedy. It should never have happened."

Kimberly Howcroft, who was divorced, was a nurse at Clovernook Nursing Home in North College Hill.

Michael F. Lyon, the attorney who represented the doctors, said he disagreed with the verdict and the amount of the award and planned to appeal.

"It was pretty apparent that the jury was swept up in a very sympathetic and tragic case," Lyon said.

""The doctors simply missed what was there," family attorney John Holschuh said. "This is something they are taught to recognize and treat."

One of the largest recent malpractice awards in Hamilton County was in 1997 when a jury awarded $8.1 million to a Sycamore Township family over the treatment of their 16-year-old son at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center for a heart infection. In return for the hospital not appealing the verdict, the family settled in 1998 for a lesser, undisclosed amount.

"I don't think there is ever a sense of closure when somebody dies," Kerry Howcroft said. "But there is some sense that justice has been served."


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