Jury members deliberated until well after dark Friday on a civil case before decid ing a local physician was at fault for the negligible death of two young boys.
The 3-year-old males, Anthony and Joshua Legge, both died from respiratory distress after a tonsillectomy and adenoidoctomy surgery on April 18, 2006 at Memori al Hospital of Union Coun ty. One boy died the night of the surgery and the other two days later. After a six hour deliberation Friday between 3:30 and 9:30 p.m., the Union County Common Pleas Court ruled the boy’s physician, Fred R. Leess IV, ultimately failed to meet the standard of care for the sur gery performed, which directly led to their deaths.
The jury also ruled Leess pay $1 million to the Legge family for each boy’s death, for a combined $2 million payout.
According to court docu ments, jurors decided that “as a specialist in otolaryngology Dr. Leess should have inves tigated the symptoms … more in-depth prior to sur gery.”
Papers also show the jurors felt negligence in medical care was the proximate cause for the deaths.
Jennifer Legge, the boys’ mother, Legge testified last week that both boys were not fully awake when they were discharged from the hospital. She took them home and observed them throughout the day. In the middle of the night, Anthony Legge went into respiratory distress and died before reaching the hos pital. Later that night, Joshua Legge went into respiratory distress and died two days later at Children’s Hospital in Columbus.
This morning, attorney Gerald Leeseberg, who repre sented the Legge family, said the ruling may finally bring some closure to his clients. He said their next step is to make sure their children’s death certificate is corrected. Leeseberg said the boys’ deaths were listed as caused by a “genetic enzyme defi ciency.”
Leess’ attorney Frederick Sewards had argued the boyshad a condition that caused them to absorb the post operation pain medication too slowly, and had begun building up “with a toxic effect.”
The issue with the coro ner’s report, Leeseberg said, is that it implies that the deaths were caused because something was wrong with the boys’ health.
“The family feels vindicat ed and relieved that their boys didn’t die because there was something wrong with them,” Leeseberg said.
The Columbus-based attor ney said with the $2 million awarded to the family, the parents plan to increase pub lic awareness that surgeries such as tonsillectomies are not as routine as some fami lies believe and can still be a dangerous procedure that requires serious attention.
Leeseberg also stressed that the jury’s ruling is that doctor Leess “failed to get informed consent,” in that he did not fully inform the par ents the two boys could have stayed overnight in the hos pital for observation. He said at one point the family had asked if the boys could stay and were told there was no reason for it.
The attorney said if the boys had stayed for observa tion at the hospital overnight, the issues that arose could have been identi fied and prevented before they became more serious and their deaths may have been prevented.
Leeseberg also clarified the $2 million payout to the family rests solely in the hands of Dr. Leess, and Memorial Hospital of Union County faces no responsibility.
The jury also ruled that the anesthesiologist involved with the boys’ care was not at fault.
By Ryan Horns