A D.C. Superior Court jury yesterday awarded $202.966 to a Southeast Washington woman whose son died in an automobile accident 12 hours after he was released from the Washington Hospital Center, where he had been take for treatment of disorientation.
According to testimony in the case, Wills Earl Martin, 25, was admitted to the hospital emergency room at 8 p.m., Feb 19, 1977, and during the course of the next eight hours told doctors that the year was 1952 and that George Washington was president. But he was not given any tests or medical treatment before being discharged at 4 a.m. the next day, said Ronald A Karp, who represented Martin's mother, Lena.
At 4 p.m. that day, Martin, an employe at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, was killed when his 1975 Thunderbird crashed into a tree at 11th and O streets NW, Karp said.
After a three-day trial before Judge Fred B. Ugast, the jury of five men and one woman delibrated for about an hour before reaching the verdict yesterday afternoon, Karp said.
The hospital denied any medical malpractice in the case and contended that Martin was "oriented" and "lucid" when he was released from the emergency room, according to the hospital's attorney, John F. Mahoney.
When Martin was discharged from the emergency room, hospital records showed that a staff doctor diagnosed that Martin was suffering from a psychiatric reaction to "drug abuse" and alcohol, according to Karp.
Karp said the hospital contended that Martin was given a neurological examination, although the test was not recorded in hospital records. Intravenous therapy and an electrocardiogram - to record heartbeat - were ordered but neither the therapy nor the test were carried out, Karp said.
After Martin was taken home from the hospital by his twin brother, Lee, Martin went to work, although it was his day off, and, accordingly to witnesses, "was in disoriented state," Karp said.
Efforts were made to find someone to take Martin home from work, Karp said, but a 4 p.m. a witness saw Martin driving up 11th Street at about 75 miles an hour.
Martin, who was thrown from his car during the accident, died of head injuries, Karp said. An autopsy disclosed no evidence of drugs or alcohol.
"The real key to the case is nobody knows whether this guy was suffering from mental depression or some chemical problem and the only way you could tell this was (through) laboratory work" at the hospital, Karp said.