OGDEN -- The case of the comatose man suing McKay-Dee Hospital inched closer to trial as attorneys sparred over pending testimony and the number of defendants.
Second District Judge Michael DiReda denied a defendant motion to release three of the four McKay-Dee security guards named in the suit. The judge ruled their alleged cumulative actions deserved review from a jury.
Jorge Godinez and wife Camelia are the listed plaintiffs in the lawsuit. The coma was triggered by rough handling by the four guards in tying a combative Godinez to a gurney on July 10, 2005, the suit claims.
That night, Godinez was brought to McKay-Dee for treatment of injuries he suffered when he jumped through a window while in a confused paranoid state, possibly drug-induced. He told police he was being pursued by "men with guns."
McKay-Dee has footed the bill ever since for Godinez's care at the hospital, estimated to cost $1,000 a day. The suit names the four guards, an emergency room doctor, McKay-Dee and parent company Intermountain Healthcare, formerly Intermountain Health Care, or IHC, as it's listed in the suit.
In arguments on pending motions Friday, DiReda denied the motion to drop three of the guards from the suit, even though Intermountain Healthcare attorneys pointed out the plaintiff's own expert seems to blame only one of the guards for the coma.
"There is no evidence the others even saw what Mr. Alkire was doing," said Intermountain Healthcare lawyer George Naegle, referring to Lance Alkire, who is accused of pressing Godinez's face to a gurney mattress while the other three guards restrained Godinez.
"This is not a bunch of cops with billy clubs, but a controlled situation in a hospital ER."
Naegle called the other three guards' actions "insignificant and immaterial."
The three, Matt Gailey, Josh Pacheco and Scott Dickey, held Godinez's legs, handcuffed him and tied him to the gurney with a sheet across his back.
But Godinez's attorney, Peter Summerill, countered: "If it was just Mr. Alkire holding our client down, he could have rolled over ... he would have been able to pant, like a runner, to respirate and blow off his carbon dioxide."
DiReda also declined to strike an affidavit from the plaintiff's expert that clarified his comments in depositions taken by Intermountain Healthcare lawyers. Intermountain Healthcare maintained the plaintiff's doctor's deposition puts blame for Godinez's coma on Alkire only.
Naegle said the plaintiff's expert in depositions said "the only aspect of the restraint contributing to the injury, cardiac arrest triggering asphyxiation," were Alkire's actions.
But the expert filed an affidavit after the deposition that said all four guards contributed to Godinez's condition.
DiReda also ruled another plaintiff's expert cannot testify as to the standard of care for the security guards, defendant ER doctor or nurses on the scene.
Summerill had argued against the restrictions, saying, "Do we really need a separate standard of care to say you don't suffocate a patient?"
After years of sparring over proof of Godinez's identity, resolved by DNA testing, the lawyers in August agreed on a trial date of April 11-29.
Intermountain Healthcare had argued for years that Godinez's status as an illegal immigrant with multiple aliases left his identity unclear, which Intermountain Healthcare argued was grounds for dismissal of the suit.
The parties resolved Intermountain Healthcare's motion earlier this year seeking to name a doctor as Godinez's guardian to replace his wife. Each side had accused the other of financial motives in the debate, leading to barbed exchanges in open court.
Plaintiffs lawyers, the two-man Ogden firm of Hasenyager and Summerill, argued Intermountain Healthcare would like to pull the plug on Godinez to save millions in the cost of his care.
Intermountain Healthcare's Salt Lake City attorneys claimed keeping Godinez alive, even if vegetative, increases the size of plaintiff's possible jury award if the suit is successful.
Camelia Godinez remains as her husband's guardian.
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. They sent him to the hospital instead of jail.
While on life support, the once-240-pound Godinez has lost more than 80 pounds, said his lawyers. Hasenyager and Summerill have banned their clients from any interviews or hospital visitations by the media.