Doctors found liable in death of teen at ACH

Jurors found two doctors liable Wednesday for the wrongful death of a 16-year-old girl at Ashland Community Hospital in 2002.

The unanimous verdict awarded to the mother, Katrina Son, was for $740,000 in damages after jurors deliberated for nine hours. She was seeking a $2.2 million settlement from Drs. Paul Rostykus and John Delgado.

Son's daughter, Sara Joy Burnson, died May 12, 2002, after taking the prescription painkiller Propacet, which was not prescribed to her. Burnson also had used cocaine within the previous day or two, the doctors testified.

During Wednesday's deliberations, there were discussions over the level of culpability concerning all parties involved, including the doctors, Brunson herself and her father. There could possibly be a another hearing that could lower the amount paid to Son based on further court conclusions.

During the 12-day trial, the jury, which constituted eight women and four men, heard of Burnson's fatal heart arrhythmia approximately six hours after her father brought her to the hospital's emergency room. Propacet, a mild narcotic, poses "unique" cardiac risks, Delgado testified Friday. He told the court, however, that he did not believe the drug caused Burnson's symptoms when he examined her in the hospital's intensive-care unit.

Jurors also heard testimony of attempts by Burnson's family to supply Rostykus with the pill bottles they believe were linked to her overdose. The hospital's emergency-room physician, Rostykus testified Thursday that he had no memory of seeing any pill bottles.

The jury found that the doctors failed to know or discover what medications Burnson had ingested and failed to treat the drugs' delayed effects in a timely manner.

The doctors argued they could not know the level of drugs in Burnson's body because toxicology tests cannot be performed at the hospital, Delgado testified Friday.

Burnson was the second child in her family to die a tragic death. Her older brother, Jasper Burnson, was killed by a drunken-driver in 1994. The driver veered across the center line of Highway 66 and struck the 11-year-old boy as he rode home on his bicycle.

Reach reporter Sarah Lemon at 776-4487, or e-mail

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