TYLER, TX (KLTV) - Following the murder charge for an East Texas nurse, alleged victims are pursuing legal action against him and his former employer, CHRISTUS Mother Frances Hospital.
On April 10, nurse William George Davis, was arrested in Tyler, accused of injecting air into the arterial lines of at least seven patients at a Tyler heart hospital. Two of those patients died.
Attorneys representing these victims or their families have sent notice for at least five lawsuits that are in the works, and they say more are expected.
"You can still subpoena the other witnesses," says attorney and law expert Randy Roberts. "They don't need to wait for the criminal case to be over; they can talk to anyone but, probably, the nurse."
Attorney Raymond Hatcher is currently representing three former patients.
"People have been severely injured," says Hatcher. "People have been killed. We hope to achieve justice for them."
Hatcher's given CHRISTUS notice of at least three impending lawsuits, and he's not the only one. The Crosley Firm out of San Antonio has filed a claim on behalf of Joseph Kalina, a patient left in a vegetative state, and attorney Steven Laird has been vocal about his representation of patient Pamela Henderson.
"The surgery, ironically, that she went in for was successful," says Laird. "But it was conduct as a practical matter allowed by the hospital that has altered this family's life."
According to the Texas Medical Liability Act, 60 days' notice is required before legal action can be taken against any medical facility. Once the suit is filed it's then up to these attorneys to prove that in some way the hospital is liable. That is harder to do if the employee's actions were intentional.
"An employer is always liable for an employee's carelessness, negligence, or incompetence," says Roberts. "As a general rule, an employer is not liable for an employee's intentional misconduct."
Roberts says there are exceptions to this rule, such as if the employer failed to do a background check on that employee before they hired them, or if the employer was careless or negligent in failing to investigate specific circumstances involving that employee that would have tipped them off that more harm would be done in the future.
If proven to be negligent, a hospital could face up to $250,000 for non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering. There is no cap on economic damages such as future medical bills or future lost wages.
Attorney Jack Walker routinely deals with lawsuits against medical facilities. He says due to the poor medical condition of many of Davis' alleged victims, it's likely their economic damages could run into the millions.
"This is a large hospital system with large amounts of insurance," says Walker. "The hospital will not be pulling resources out of the community to pay claims."
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Walker says while lawsuits of this magnitude are unlikely to have an impact on the local economy, they could force change to the policy and procedures that the facility has in place.
"The goal of any litigation is making sure this doesn't happen again," says Walker.
There is no limitation on a medical professional's liability if it is found that their actions were intentional, however a facility's insurance does not cover intentional acts by a doctor or nurse.