Trial Begins for Man Suing Idaho Hospital in Malpractice Case

Lawyers for a man who blames an eastern Idaho hospital for brain damage during surgery for a minor wrist injury have begun presenting their case to a jury.

Brock Higham is suing the Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center, alleging negligence by the hospital’s nursing staff during his 2002 operation.

Lawyers for Higham, 23, contend he suffered brain damage after nurses administered the wrong drug, causing Higham to suffocate. They also say the staff waited too long to react, leaving Higham with a medical condition defined by slowed speech and tremors.

“This is a case where my client received brain damage while at the hospital,” plaintiff attorney Bruce Owens, of Coeur d’Alene, told potential jurors Monday. “We think we are able to prove there was a mix-up in the medications” that caused the damage.

Defense lawyers say the nursing staff followed proper monitoring procedures and that the medication blamed for Higham’s problems was not at fault.

“The monitoring was perfectly appropriate,” said Robert Roth, one of three lawyers on the hospital’s legal team.

The lawsuit, originally filed in 7th District Court in 2003, started with jury selection Monday. Judge Jon Shinderling has set aside three weeks for the case, which is expected to include testimony from as many as 20 witnesses.

Ken Pedersen, a Twin Falls medical malpractice specialist hired by the plaintiffs, said the drug that hospital staff was supposed to give Higham during the operation was not discovered in subsequent lab tests.

The brain damage suffered by Higham has left him unable to work, and his lawyers say he deserves compensation for loss of income, medical costs and damages for pain and suffering.

The lawsuit does not mention a specific damage amount, but Higham’s attorney told potential jurors they could be deliberating over a multimillion dollar award.