Jury returns $3.5 million verdict in malpractice case in city
by Rachel Davis
Mar 24, 2013 | 9027 views | 0 0 comments | 21 21 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A Walker County jury on Friday returned a verdict of $3.5 million in a medical malpractice lawsuit against Dr. Timothy Lovely and Southern Medical Group, Inc.

The case relates to treatment following an injury sustained by Jeremy Freeman in 2005. Lawyers for Freeman said the then-27-year-old suffered a fall at home on March 23, 2005, and was taken to the emergency room at Walker Baptist Medical Center on March 24, where a CT scan of his head was performed.

Ten days later, Freeman returned to the ER complaining of sharp neck pain and numbness in both hands — symptoms his lawyer, Dennis Goldasich of Goldasich and Associates in Birmingham, called “classic signs of spinal cord impingement.” Goldasich said an X-ray of the spine was performed, but no MRI or reflex testing was performed. Goldasich said that he presented at trial a variety of sources that showed this was not the proper procedure for this case, as X-rays only show bone abnormalities but not issues with the spinal cord itself.

Over the next two months, Goldasich said Freeman’s condition continued to worsen until Freeman’s mother, Beverly Smith, found him almost completely paralyzed in his bedroom at his apartment. He was taken to the University of Alabama at Birmingham where Goldasich said testing revealed massive disc herniation impinging on the spinal cord.

An operation to relieve the pressure was performed but the continued, long-term pressure left Freeman with permanent spinal cord injury and partial paralysis.

Goldasich said Freeman, a Cordova native, fought to overcome cerebral palsy, with the help of the ARC of Walker County, and, prior to the injury, had obtained a driver’s license, was living alone and had a job working in maintenence.

Freeman is now 35, wheelchair-bound and dependant on his mother for care. Goldasich said Freeman suffers from spastic quadriparesis, meaning he lacks fine motor control in all four limbs and renders him unemployable.

Jonathan Sapp Sr., of The Sapp Law Firm and co-counsel for Freeman, said the trial lasted nine days before the jury returned the judgement Friday. He added this is the largest medical malpractice award in Walker County history.

“I’m just humbled by the jury and the time they spent and their commitment to listening to all the evidence from both sides and arriving at the verdict they did,” Sapp said.

Freeman was represented in the case by Goldasich and Sapp, as well as Josh Vick and Justin Owen of Goldasich and Associates. Lovely and Southern Medical Group were represented by Steadman Shealy and Richard Crum of Shealy, Crum and Pike and James C. King, of King, Wiley and Williams. Circuit Judge Jerry Selman presided over the trail.

Attempts to reach lawyers for Lovely and Southern Medical late Saturday for comment were unsuccessful. They have 30 days to ask for a new trial, and, if not, will likely appeal the decision.