Doctors to pay $444,000 for girl's death at hospital

Two Ashland doctors found liable for the death of a 16-year-old girl at Ashland Community Hospital in 2002 will pay $444,000 to her estate.

Payment of the award will be split equally between Drs. Paul Rostykus and John Delgado. Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Mark Schiveley on Tuesday also ordered the physicians to reimburse the girl's mother, Katrina Son, for $5,314 — her cost to bring the case to trial.

A Circuit Court jury on June 20 awarded $740,000 to the estate of Sara Joy Burnson. But the jury's verdict that Burnson and her father also were liable in her May 12, 2002, drug overdose reduced the amount Rostykus and Delgado each must pay.

Burnson bore 25 percent of the blame for her fatal irregular heartbeat caused by ingesting cocaine and the prescription narcotic Propacet, jurors said. The jury found Burnson's father, David Burns, bore 15 percent of the fault. Rostykus and Delgado were each 30 percent liable.

Rostykus and Delgado, jurors said, failed to know or discover what medications Burnson had ingested and failed to treat the drugs' delayed effects in a timely manner. Burnson died in ACH's intensive-care unit about six hours after arriving at the hospital's emergency department with her father.

Rostykus treated Burnson in the emergency department while Delgado, a family practitioner, was the intensive-care unit physician on call that day.

Rostykus and Delgado both have active staff privileges at ACH, said Carolyn Johnson, the hospital's director of planning and marketing. Burnson's death was subject to the hospital's standard peer review process, she said, adding that she couldn't comment on specifics of the review. ACH plans no action against Rostykus or Delgado, Johnson said.

"The hospital is very pleased with the care they give to their patients," Johnson said.

Delgado's attorney, Michael Hoffman of Portland, said the verdict was very disappointing, adding that his client could appeal. Steven Pratt, the Medford attorney for Rostykus, said it was likely in the best interests of all parties to close the case without further litigation.

Son's attorney, Linda Eyerman of Portland, said her client had no comment. While Burnson's estate benefits both her parents, Son — an Ashland resident — said she brought the suit to improve medical care in that city. She initially sought $2.2 million.

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

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