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Saddleback Doctors Hit by Jury Award

Courts: Decision gives Newport Beach couple nearly $1.95 million as two physicians are found negligent in premature son's death.

November 10, 2000|MARC BALLON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Superior Court jury has awarded a Newport Beach couple nearly $1.95 million in the death of their son, one of their triplets born at Saddleback Memorial Medical Center.

After more than three days of deliberations in Santa Ana, the jury found Wednesday that Dr. Ronald Naglie and Dr. Mita Shaw were negligent in the death of William Comstock Warden, the son of William and Elizabeth Gillis Warden. Another defendant, Dr. David Vogel, was not found liable.

"This is good news, but my baby is just as dead," Elizabeth Warden said Thursday.

C. Snyder Patin, an attorney who represented the three doctors, said he expected the amount to be scaled back to $250,000, the maximum award in California for pain and suffering in a wrongful-death case of medical negligence.

The jury, he said, was swayed more by emotions than by the facts.

William Comstock Warden was born at Saddleback on May 22, 1998, more than two months premature. Weighing just 3 pounds, 5 ounces, he was transferred to the neonatal intensive care unit.

The lawsuit claimed that doctors inserted a catheter incorrectly, causing the infant to go into massive shock, lose significant amounts of blood and experience kidney failure. The catheter, which is threaded through an infant's umbilical vein to an area near the diaphragm, carries nutritional fluids and medication to the child.

Dissatisfied with the care at Saddleback, the Wardens transferred their son to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles on June 12. He died 11 days later.

The jury awarded $250,000 for past pain and suffering and $1.68 million for future pain and suffering.

The jury found Naglie to be 10% negligent and Shaw to be 90% negligent. The jury found Naglie to be an "agent" of Saddleback, meaning the Laguna Hills hospital may have some financial liability for the award, said Jane Stracner, an attorney representing the Wardens.

Saddleback is considering an appeal, a spokeswoman said.

Another triplet, Elizabeth Warden, died Oct. 23, 1998, choking on her vomit. The Wardens have filed another civil suit against Saddleback and four doctors, alleging physicians failed to diagnose their daughter with a condition known as reflux.

The Wardens also are seeking a court order preventing Saddleback from advertising its neonatal unit as a facility that has received the highest designation.

Superior Court Judge Ronald L. Bauer is expected to rule soon on that issue.

Times staff writer Marc Ballon can be reached at marc.ballon@latimes.com.

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