Hare, Wynn, Newell & Newton - April 2020

April 2020

W

hen John Townsend was admitted to RMC’s emergency room on March 17, 2014, he had the tragic misfortune of coming under the care of the wrong doctor. This doctor

things moved forward, they had to reel me in from time to time because I had never gone through anything like that before. I didn’t know what to expect. It was scary, but they were very patient and kind.” Angela says that Shay reminded her of Ben Matlock—one of her favorite shows—and there were many“Matlock”moments at trial. Perez testified that he hadn’t done anything wrong. He had turned the case over to Greene and, having done that, claimed John was no longer his responsibility. When Shay cross-examined him, however, he skillfully cut away at Perez’s testimony, exposing the irrefutable facts underneath: Perez was in charge of the ER; he sent John home without diagnosing or treating him; both he and Greene were jointly negligent/liable for John’s completely preventable death.

did not follow the “worst first” principle — the critical practice of ER doctors establishing a list of possible diagnoses to explain a patient’s symptoms, with the most life-threatening at the top. These conditions are presumed to be the diagnosis until ruled out through tests and examinations, which is repeated until the correct diagnosis is made. Three weeks earlier, John had undergone surgery to repair an abdominal aorta aneurysmwith his doctor, Dr. Valente. At the time of incident, he had all the signs and symptoms of a deadly complication from this surgery, pseudoaneurysms. The emergency room doctor, Dr. Perez, ordered a CT scan, and the results listed a pseudoaneurysm amongst the most likely possibilities. A color Doppler ultrasound was recommended for a definite diagnosis, but Perez disregarded this, as did the on-call surgeon, Dr. Greene. Instead, Perez sent John home with instructions to see Valente the following day. The next morning, however, John’s pseudoaneurysm burst. He was rushed to the hospital, but it was too late to save his life. In March 2016, Shay Samples at Hare Wynn, working alongside attorney Ashley Peinhardt, filed a lawsuit on behalf of John’s wife, Angela, against RMC, Greene, and Perez, alleging that the failure to diagnose John’s condition led to his death. Shay later released RMC from the lawsuit, settled with Greene for $1 million, and pursued the case against Perez. Angela felt comforted by and confident in both Shay and Ashley as they helped her through this difficult time, “Shay was a steady, strong, calming influence on me, and Ashley was a dear. They were so genuine! As

Ashley Peinhardt and Shay Samples, who represented Angela Townsend

Shay then deconstructed the qualifications of the defense’s expert witnesses with his blend of quick wit, killer instincts, and Southern charm. Angela says it was thrilling to watch and sat transfixed as the process unfolded:

“Shay was brilliant … just wonderful! I couldn’t get over it! He did an amazing job with Perez and the defense witnesses. He must have done research on all of them because he knew a lot about them. He also has really good instincts because he always knew just what buttons to push in order to get a certain reaction. And when he seemed to know that somebody wasn’t telling the truth, he would say things that were really funny and quirky, and the jury just loved it!”

On Aug. 16, 2019, the jury found Perez responsible for John’s death and ordered him to pay $2 million. As he and Greene were jointly responsible, the $1 million Greene had already paid was subtracted from that amount.

Angela says, “When the verdict was read in my favor, I felt a weight lifted from my shoulders. Three years went by so fast. Because I had so much confidence in Shay and Ashley, I had been able to just turn everything over to them and know it was safe in their hands. They knew what they were doing. They worked very hard for me, and I had complete trust in them. They always helped me anyway they possibly could. I can’t even begin to explain what a great job they did. They knew John’s death should never have happened. My husband was simply the best. We were married 38 years, and I miss him every day.” Angela will never forget the moment a day before the verdict. As the trial came to a close, Angela remembers sitting in the courtroom at peace with whatever came next. In her words, “I felt a hand on my left side squeezing my arm, but as I turned to look and see who it was, there was nobody there. I swear to this day, I thought it was my husband sitting there, as if he was telling me it was all going to be okay, and he was right — it was.”

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