OGDEN -- A trial date has finally been set after four years in a lawsuit brought by a comatose man suing McKay-Dee Hospital.
Jorge Godinez had been in a coma for almost a year when his family filed suit in 2006 against McKay-Dee over his condition.
Godinez first lapsed into his coma on July 10, 2005, the night he was brought to McKay-Dee for treatment of injuries incurred when he jumped through a window while in a confused state, possibly drug-induced.
He and wife Camelia are the listed plaintiffs on the lawsuit that claims the coma was triggered by rough handling by four McKay-Dee security guards in tying Godinez to a gurney that night.
McKay-Dee has footed the bill ever since for Godinez's care, estimated at $1,000 a day.
After years of sparring over proof of Godinez's identity, the lawyers earlier this month agreed on a trial date of April 11 through April 29 before 2nd District Judge Michael DiReda.
DNA testing ordered in January by DiReda finally confirmed Godinez's identity. The defendants had argued for years that Godinez's status as an illegal immigrant with multiple aliases left his identity unclear and was grounds for dismissal of the suit.
Oral arguments are set for Oct. 4 on several pending motions. Lawyers for McKay-Dee and parent company Intermountain Healthcare are disputing the expert testimony planned by plaintiff's counsel, the Ogden law firm of Hasenyager and Summerill.
The defendants also have filed a motion to appoint a guardian for Godinez, which would remove his wife from making decisions regarding his care.
"We're happy to have a trial date, and we are looking forward to putting the case in front of a jury," said Peter Summerill, who declined to comment in detail about the pending motions. Calls to defendants' lead counsel, George Naegle, were not immediately returned.
Summerill would only say appointing a guardian for Godinez would likely allow the bypassing of the emotional and spiritual considerations of his family as to his continuing care.
A doctor appointed as guardian would likely instead make decisions largely on a medical basis. The lawyers in the past have angrily accused each other of wanting to either extend Godinez's life or "pull the plug" for purely financial reasons, most recently at a hearing in January. Jim Hasenyager at that time accused Naegle of dragging the case out with the identity questions in the hope Godinez would die before trial.
"The hospital wants him dead so they don't have to pay the continuing care costs that could reach an estimated $20 million," he said. Naegle, in turn, said, "Mr. Hasenyager's financial interest is in keeping him alive, even though the doctors say he will always be vegetative, because that increases the size of any possible financial recovery at trial." At that point DiReda cut off the debate.
On the night of July 10, 2005, Ogden police twice encountered a paranoid Godinez in homes not his own, fleeing "men with guns," as he told officers. While on life support, the once 240-pound Godinez has lost more than 80 pounds. Hasenyager and Summerill have banned their clients from any media interviews or hospital visitations by the media.