A Tuscaloosa County Circuit Court jury today returned a verdict against Dr. Bradley Bilton; his practice group University Surgical Associates,P.C.; Dr. George Nunn; Dr. Kenneth Aldridge; and DCH Health Care Authority. The jury awarded $30 million in damages to the family of Johnny Terrell Sledge, who died at DCH Regional Medical Center six years ago.
The case was tried this past two weeks by Marsh Rickard & Bryan attorneys David Marsh, Derrick Mills and Jane Mauzy.
On December 27, 2013, Mr. Sledge was injured by a gunshot wound to his back. He arrived by EMS at the emergency room at DCH Regional Medical Center at 2:15 in the afternoon. He was treated by the emergency department physician, who recognized that Mr. Sledge needed surgery. Dr. Bilton, a general surgeon and the “on call” trauma surgeon that day, was paged repeatedly to come to the emergency room. Dr. Bilton returned the page stating that he was in surgery and to “call someone else”. No available surgeons were found. Instead of coming to the emergency room, Dr. Bilton started a second elective surgery. Mr. Sledge continued to lay in the emergency room bleeding from an abdominal injury. Approximately 10 minutes before Mr. Sledge’s death, Dr. Bilton advised the emergency room that he was coming down from the operating room. However, Mr. Sledge died in the emergency room while waiting for a surgical consult. Dr. Bilton never arrived.
One of the main issues in the case was the hospital’s policies and procedures for trauma calls. The hospital’s policies allowed the “on call” trauma surgeon to schedule elective surgical procedures on their “on call” days. This created a situation where the “on call” trauma surgeon might be unavailable. In that situation, the hospital policy provided that the “on call” trauma surgeon was responsible for locating another surgeon to take his place. That procedure wasn’t followed here. Dr. Nunn is DCh’s Director of Trauma Services. Dr. Aldridge is DCH’s Chief Medical Officer.
Attorney Derrick Mills says “Mr Sledge was victimized twice. First, he was an innocent bystander struck by a stray bullet. Then, he was left to die in an emergency room because the general surgeon who was at the hospital and called to provide the life-saving surgery he needed, never showed up”