Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

October 8, 2013

Mercer jury awards more than $2M in medical suit

By GREG JORDAN
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD — A Mercer County jury recently ruled that a local physician had been negligent in his treatment and care of a patient and awarded the man more than $2.2 million.

Willie Havens and his wife, Melissa Havens, of Mercer County had filed a civil action against Dr. Walid H. Azzo, M.D. The case was heard before Circuit Court Judge Omar Aboulhosn.

Attorney Mark R. Staun, who represented the Havens with attorney Kay Bayless, said on Oct. 9, 2008 Willie Havens was working at King’s Tire Service in Bluewell when he injured his foot. He went to Bluefield Regional Medical Center where he was told he had a fractured fifth metatarsal, a bone in the foot. Havens later saw Dr. Azzo, an orthopedic surgeon, on Oct. 14 that same year.

“They referred him to Dr. Azzo, and Dr. Azzo placed his foot in a short leg cast,” Staun said Monday.

A follow up visit was conducted Nov. 14, 2008, Staun said.

“Mr. Havens during that month had problems with pain in his calf muscle, sharp stabbing pain and swelling,” he said. “The cast became very, very tight. He told Dr. Azzo about that, and the controversy was Dr. Azzo believed he had a totally normal examination and took the cast off. There were totally different stories about what the problems were.”

Havens returned to regular work on Dec. 1, 2008.

“It was the first time he had been on that leg hard since the date of the injury,” Staun said. “His calf became swollen badly, so bad his wife had to cut part of his boot and pants off when he got home.”

After the swelling started, Havens returned to Dr. Azzo, who then ordered an ultrasound scan “which we say he should have done on Nov. 14” when the cast was removed and Havens complained about swelling, Staun stated.

Staun said when a person complains of pain and swelling that is not associated with a fracture like the one Havens had, the standard of care requires an ultrasound to rule out a deep vein thrombosis. The deep vein from above Havens’ ankle to his knee was “totally blocked.”

“What happens is that veins have valves in them to help push blood back to the heart, and the clot destroyed the valves,” Staun said. “What happens is the body can’t push the blood up the leg well enough. There is very bad swelling and your leg becomes hard like a piece of wood.”

Staun said the clot caused permanent damage, adding that the “gold standard” of care called for an ultrasound in Havens’ situation.

On Oct. 4, the jury awarded the Havens with $31,532.87 for medical expenses, $191,315 for lost wages, and $2 million for past pain, suffering, mental anguish, future pain, suffering mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, and loss of consortium. The total sum for damages was $2,222,847.87.

Azzo’s attorneys, D.C. Offutt, Jr. and Jody Offutt of Huntington, did not return calls Monday.

— Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com