East Texas Medical Center in Tyler, Texas was the site of negligent treatment that resulted in one of the largest medical malpractice verdicts of the year to date. Lawyers from Tyler-based Martin Walker PC convinced a jury that the center and one of its doctors were negligent in the treatment of the plaintiff, 61-year-old Billy Pierce when he was admitted with stomach pain and vomiting in April 2014.

On Feb. 1, jurors agreed that the hospital had put its patients in extreme risk by allowing Dr. Gary Boyd to treat Pierce despite being on probation with the Texas Medical Board. Pursuant to the hospital’s bylaws and policies, the hospital privileges of a doctor on probation are automatically suspended in such a scenario.

For a month following Boyd’s misdiagnosis and unnecessary surgery, Pierce was put in a medically induced coma, during which time he was effectively abandoned by the doctor and hospital, the Martin Walker trial team argued. When the hospital finally sought a second opinion, the new doctor rejected Dr. Boyd’s diagnosis and performed surgery without complication.

The jury verdict included $18.57 million for past and future pain, anguish, loss of earning capacity, and medical care and expenses. The jury found that the hospital was 90 percent liable for the damages, while Dr. Boyd was 10 percent liable. With the gross negligence finding, the jury ordered $25 million in exemplary damages, finding that the hospital’s conduct involved an extreme risk of potential harm to others.

“Hospitals have a supreme duty to provide safe and effective care to patients, and that duty must come before everything else,” said Martin Walker attorney Reid Martin, who along with name partner Jack Walker and attorney Marisa Schouten represented Mr. Pierce. “By allowing a dangerous doctor, who had lost his hospital privileges to continue to treat patients, this was a tragedy waiting to happen.”

The case is Billy Pierce v East Texas Medical Center and Dr. Gary Boyd and the ETMC Digestive Disease Center, Cause No. 16-0853-C in the 241st District Court in Smith County.