Continuing motions delay lawsuit against McKay-Dee Hospital

Mar 17 2011 - 11:24pm

OGDEN -- Continuing motions have bumped the trial in the lawsuit brought by a comatose man and his family against McKay-Dee Hospital.

Jorge Godinez has lived in an intensive care unit at McKay-Dee since July 10, 2005, when he lapsed into a coma during a scuffle with security guards in the hospital emergency room.

The suit filed in 2006 blames the hospital for the condition that occurred as a combative Godinez was tied, face down, to a gurney, with a guard on his back.

McKay-Dee has footed the bill ever since for Godinez's care, estimated to cost $1,000 a day.

During a motion hearing this week before 2nd District Judge Michael DiReda, an April trial date was stricken after attorneys on both sides agreed that McKay-Dee and parent company Intermountain Healthcare were entitled to more time to find an expert on life-care issues for Godinez's future needs.

The trial now is not expected before August, with the date still to be finalized.

DiReda also ruled that Utah law precludes any possible damage award to Godinez's three children for loss of consortium. Any potential damage award would be limited to such losses for Godinez' wife, Camelia, as well as lost wages and punitive damages, among other possibilities.

More oral arguments are set for Wednesday. Among about a dozen issues still to be sorted out are levels of potential punitive damages and whether the jury will hear why Godinez was brought to the emergency room in the first place.

On the night of July 10, 2005, Ogden police twice encountered a paranoid Godinez, believed to be on methamphetamines, entering homes not his own while fleeing "men with guns," as he told officers.

Police called an ambulance to take him to McKay-Dee to treat a cut he received on his leg when diving through a window. Police later cited him for disorderly conduct, but the charge in Ogden Justice Court has since been dismissed.

While on life support, the once-240-pound Godinez has lost more than 80 pounds. Godinez attorneys James Hasenyager and Peter Summerill, of Ogden, have banned their clients from any media interviews or hospital visitations by the media.

"His eyes are frequently open, briefly," Hasenyager said this week in a rare disclosure on his client's condition. "There is no other identifiable movement."

Godinez's weight loss has stabilized, and his wife believes he is aware of her when she enters his hospital room by the reaction she sees in his eyes, Hasenyager said.

After years of sparring over proof of Godinez's identity, the lawyers in August finally agreed on setting a trial date for the first time of April 11-29.

DNA testing ordered in January 2010 by DiReda 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.

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