Jury awards man $1M in medical lawsuit

Published: Friday, January 18, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 17, 2008 at 11:19 p.m.

A Suwannee County jury awarded a Live Oak man more than $1 million late Wednesday, finding a doctor had negligently treated him after he was bitten by pit bulls four years ago.

Jurors sided with William Roberts Jr. in his medical malpractice lawsuit against Dr. Romulo Armas, according to the verdict.

The trial lasted six days, with jurors awarding Roberts $1,163,986, according to records with the Suwannee County Clerk of Court.

"It was a horrifying experience. Thank God I lived through it," Roberts said. "If anything, you would hope that, if there are some physicians who don't know that heart problems can be created from dog bites, maybe they can learn from this."

An attorney for the doctor, Dick Womble of Orlando, said, "Of course we are disappointed with the verdict. We are going to be filing some post-trial motions. Depending on what the judge does, we may appeal."

Roberts was 36 when he said he was bitten by two dogs in May 2003.

An employee for the Suwannee Valley Electric Company, Roberts was reading meters when he was attacked, said Roberts' attorney Rod Bowdoin.

Bowdoin, who practices in Lake City and Live Oak, said Roberts was treated by Armas at Shands Live Oak, where the doctor was working under contract for the facility.

"He went to the emergency room for treatment, but he was not treated properly," Bowdoin said. "He did not receive proper wound care and antibiotics."

An infection developed, affecting Roberts' heart. About two months later, he had to undergo surgery on valves in his heart. Roberts developed Streptococcus viridans endocarditis, in which bacteria leads to an infection of the lining of the heart valves.

Womble said Roberts had experienced fevers prior to being bitten, indicating an earlier source for the infection.

Bowdoin said Armas also will be responsible for attorneys fees and court costs, but an amount has not yet been determined.

Armas currently is a contract employee at Shands Live Oak and works on an as-needed basis, according to Shands.

Lise Fisher can be reached at 352-374-5092 or fisherl@gvillesun.com.

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