Mercer County jury finds doctor responsible in death
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A Mercer County jury last week found a doctor responsible for the death of a McDowell County man and awarded his family $1 million.
Jurors awarded the son of Gary Rakes, 55, of Welch, who died at Bluefield Regional Medical Center in 2010, $500,000 in compensatory damages and $500,000 in punitive damages.
Jurors found that Dr. Delilah Stephens acted with willful, wanton, reckless, or malicious conduct in her care and treatment of Rakes.
Rakes went to Bluefield Regional Medical Center on Sept. 3, 2010, with his main complaint being that he felt sick, according to the complaint.
During a previous hospital visit, the complaint states, Rakes had an adverse reaction to a 50-milligram dosage of Seroquel and, therefore, his patient history noted the allergy numerous times.
"Regardless, Dr. [Toni] Muncy, ordered that Mr. Rakes be given 100 mg of Seroquel," the complaint states. "Dr. Stephens signed off on Dr. Muncy's order and took no further action."
Toni Muncy, D.O., Khalid Razzaq, M.D., and Health Services of the Virginias Inc., which owns the Bluefield Regional Medical Center, previously settled for $190,000, according to plaintiff's attorney Alex Shook of Morgantown.
Stephens, the lone remaining defendant, was an independent contractor with the hospital, Shook said.
The complaint states that on Sept. 4, 2010, Razzaq incorrectly noted that Rakes had no known drug allergies and ordered that he be given 25 milligrams of Seroquel at 4 p.m. every day.
Most of that night, Rakes was sedated, according to the complaint. The next night he died as a result of an adverse drug reaction to Seroquel.
Seroquel is an anti-psychotic used by some physicians for sedation, according to Shook.
"You aren't supposed to get it if you have dementia, which Mr. Riggs had," Shook said.
Also, Shook said his client "obviously needed" the support of a ventilator at the hospital.
"He was on that as a regular home regimen," Shook said.
Eventually, a physician's assistant realized measures should have been taken to provide ventilator support, according to Shook.
"But it never happened," he said.
In 2003, the state implemented caps on non-economic damages that a jury could award a victim of medical malpractice. The Legislature set the caps at $250,000 per case and $500,000 for more egregious acts of malpractice.
Reach Kate White at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1723.