A Calhoun County jury agreed a Blountstown physician was not responsible for the sudden death of a local woman who passed away four years ago.
Following a week-long civil trial, the jury cleared Dr. Clifford Bristol of Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare of any wrongdoing in the death of 55-year-old Dorene Goodman.
The case was filed by Goodman’s husband, Durwin, and son, Jay, who was 20-years-old at the time of his mother’s death. The Goodmans also sued John L. Lentz, M.D., Southland Emergency Medical, and the Calhoun-Liberty Hospital Association in the matter. They each settled with the family for undisclosed amounts prior to the end of the trial. However, TMH stood firm behind Dr. Bristol who has practiced in the community for over 28 years.
Dorene Goodman showed up at Calhoun-Liberty Hospital’s emergency room the night of Feb. 10, 2008, after becoming ill. She was treated and went to see Dr. Bristol the following day. After spending between 20 minutes to a half hour examining Goodman who was achy, Dr. Bristol suspected she had a virus. He sent her home, but told her to return on Thursday for a follow-up. However, her husband called Dr. Bristol’s office on Tuesday and told a nurse she was still aching in her arm and leg, plus wasn’t eating or drinking anything. Dr. Bristol had the nurse tell the family to have her take Tylenol for the pain and drink 16 ounces of liquids to prevent dehydration, but told them to take her to an emergency room if she could not keep the liquids down. Wednesday morning, Dr. Bristol had his nurse call and check on how Goodman was doing. The nurse was told she appeared better, was moving around more and had been able to keep the liquids down.
Later that night, Goodman reportedly became confused and her condition worsened. She was rushed to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital where she died on Thursday, Feb. 14, the day she was scheduled to come in for a follow-up visit with Dr. Bristol.
It was later learned that Goodman died from bacterial meningitis. Attorneys for Dr. Bristol pointed out she presented no symptoms common with this illness, such as extreme headache, fever and chills. Therefore, Dr. Bristol had no reason to order a lumbar puncture when the symptoms were not evident and she seemed to be responding favorably to his initial treatment.
“The law does not require [Dr. Bristol’s] care to be perfect. Nobody can be perfect. The law requires him to be reasonable and he was reasonable and right in this case,” an attorney for TMH told the jury.
Durwin Goodman sought recovery of medical bills, funeral expenses, loss of past and future income, along with loss of household services at both his home and camp. The estimated value was set at over $875,000.
Jay Goodman sought damages for pain and suffering due to the loss of his relationship with his mother. The value was set at $500,000.
The jury was charged midday Friday and returned with a verdict by 4:30 p.m., denying any malpractice occurred.