UPDATE, Woman sues Methodist Healthcare-Dyersburg Hospital for $40 million in brother's death
01/28/02, BILL HILES
A Memphis woman has filed a $40 million lawsuit against Methodist Healthcare-Dyersburg Hospital and several of its employees in connection with the electrocution death of her brother on Feb. 4, 2001. Sidney Connell, filed the lawsuit as the administratrix for the estate of Michael P. Connell and for the use and benefit of his heir, Chad Connell, 15. Her complaint, filed in Dyer County Circuit Court on Jan. 16 by Memphis attorneys Louis Chiozza and James V. Ball, also names several physicians and groups of physicians. Michael Connell, a licensed mechanical contractor, was electrocuted while performing air conditioning service at the Dyersburg Mall. Sidney Connell filed a separate $10 million federal lawsuit in June. That lawsuit, still pending in federal court, states that "on Jan. 27, 2001 Michael Connell was asked by Azizi International, Inc., a maintenance broker, to make a service call at Dyersburg Mall, specifically for the heating and air units of Hibbett Sporting Goods..." "In the course of providing the service," the federal lawsuit states, "Michael Connell, while standing in front of the electrical panel to check the electrical disconnect at the main electrical box and look at the breaker, opened the box and wires which were not properly secured fell onto Michael Connell, creating an electrical arc and injuring Michael Connell who received second and third degree electrical burns to his face, arms and hands." Connell developed septic shock due to the injuries and died of complications from the burns on Feb. 3, 2001, according to the complaint. The lawsuit alleges that Dyersburg Mall was guilty of negligence because "(i)t knew or should have known of the dangerous condition of the electrical panel, but did not remedy the dangerous condition", "did not exercise care in properly maintaining and servicing the electrical equipment", "failed to insure that the electrical work and construction on the building was within codes", "failed to warn persons ... of the fact that the wires were not secured within the electrical panel and were dangerous", and "failed to warn other repair and service contractors of the faulty nature of the electrical panel." The complaint alleges that the acts of negligence by the mall "... were the direct and proximate causes of the death of Michael Connell." The complaint makes similar allegations of negligence against Hibbett Sporting Goods and Azizi International. The state lawsuit against the hospital alleges that Michael Connell was evaluated by Dr. Elliot Landfield in the emergency room and "...was...treated for his flash burns only and not for the electrocution injury..." It blames Michael Connell's death on improper care by Landfield and other emergency room personnel because of alleged improper treatment before Connell was transferred to the Firefighters Regional Burn Center at the Regional Medical Center at Memphis. "...as a result of defendants' negligent medical care and/or malpractice (Michael Connell) did not receive proper and immediate medical care, his medical condition was compromised prior to and during his transfer and further compromised at the time of his arrival at the Firefighters Regional Burn Center ... which said acts were a direct and proximate cause of his death on Feb. 4, 2001." The complaint names three Methodist Healthcare-Dyersburg Hospital emergency medical technicians and a nurse at the hospital and John and/or Jane Doe, unnamed defendants employed by the hospital, UT Medical Group Inc. and Phyamerica Physicians Services of the Midwest Inc. The complaint includes excerpts, said to be from an autopsy of Michael Connell's body, stating that he died of complications from the electrical injuries he received at the mall. The complaint alleges that "the defendants, jointly and/or severally, were guilty of... medical negligence ... that ... were the direct and proximate cause of the injuries to (Michael Connell) ... resulting in his death... ." It claims the hospital failed to provide education and knowledge to its staff in the handling, treatment and transfer of medical emergencies, "failed to appropriately ensure that its employees, personnel and/or staff applied, followed and carried out all applicable policies, procedures and guidelines in full force and effect for the treatment of injuries presented in the instant case..." and failed "...to appropriately ensure that (Michael Connell) received proper, appropriate and non-negligent medical care and/or treatment necessitated and required for emergencies presented in the instant case... ." The complaint further alleges that the hospital failed to ensure the safety of Michael Connell while he was in the care of the hospital and its emergency medical personnel. As to the emergency medical technicians and nurse, identified in the complaint as Shands, R. Gatlin, Buchanan and Connie Ray, R.N., the lawsuit claims they failed "...to secure the necessary information, knowledge and skills in the medical care and/or service required of them to properly assist the physicians in the treatment of (Michael Connell)..." and failed "...to appropriately follow and adhere all policies, protocols, procedures and guidelines applicable to them in full force and effect for the medical treatment of injuries presented in the instant case... ." The emergency medical personnel also were negligent in failing to properly equip the emergency room and in failing to appropriately monitor Michael Connell's condition, the complaint states. The 17-page complaint reiterates the complaints against each of the defendants and claims recovery from them for "...the wrongful death of Michael Peel Connell on Feb. 4,2001, emotional pain and suffering by Michael Connell ... pecuniary value of the life of (Michael Connell), ... loss of earning capacity of (Michael Connell) ... any and all medical expenses for (Michael Connell), ... funeral expenses, ... loss of consortium, companionship and society (to Sidney Connell), "... for mental pain and anguish (of Michael Connell's heirs) and for Sidney Connell's "... loss of wages and all expenses she has incurred as a result of the death of her brother... ." The complaint claims that the actions of the defendants are "... so willful and wanton as to shock the conscious (sic) of the community at-large and would entitle plaintiffs to punitive damages against all defendants named herein." The complaint asks for $20 million in actual damages and $20 million in punitive damages and seeks a jury trial.