FARMINGTON — A civil trial began Monday with opening statements by attorneys in a lawsuit that accuses a Farmington doctor and Franklin Memorial Hospital of negligence in the treatment of an 84-year-old Jay woman before she died in February 2011.

Celine Boyle, the attorney for Kelly Smith, the personal representative of the estate of Maxine Turner, said in her opening statements that Dr. Larry Labul and FMH were negligent in the treatment of Maxine Turner. They failed to meet the appropriate standard of care and safely treat her, she said.

Smith filed the suit against Labul and FMH in October 2014.

The suit claims that Labul treated Smith’s grandmother for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and did not consider pneumonia in his diagnosis. It also claims that Labul discharged Turner before her breathing was stabilized to a skilled nursing facility where she died nearly three hours later.

Dan Rapaport, attorney for Labul and FMH, said in his opening statement that the evidence will show that Labul and FMH were not negligent in their treatment of Turner and provided her with appropriate care.

The trial before a 10-member jury – four women, six men — is expected to last five days. It will run through Thursday this week and conclude Monday, Dec. 7, at the Franklin County Superior Court.


Both lawyers plan to call experts and hospital staff members to testify.

The jury will hear that one of the things Turner’s family wanted to do was to help her with medical care as she got older so she could live at home like she wanted and not be put in a nursing home, Boyle said. Family members visited and called regularly to make sure she was OK and had the necessary care while she lived at home, she said.

Smith, the power of attorney, took her grandmother to medical appointments, including to her primary care physician, Dr. Heidi Decker.

Turner had many medical conditions, including diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and congestive heart failure, according to evidence presented Monday. She also was on two liters of oxygen.

Turner lived alone and cooked, baked, and did other tasks around the house, Boyle said.

The jury will hear that in early 2011 Turner was sleepier than usual. On Feb. 3, 2011, Turner fell asleep, fell out of a chair and was taken to the emergency room at FMH, Boyle said. She was examined by Dr. Stephen Zanella who saw she had some bruising on her ribs. He advised Turner to wear a rib belt and breathe very deeply five to six times a day to clear her lungs so she would not develop pneumonia, Boyle said.


Zanella recommended 24-hour care. Turner’s family followed the doctor’s instructions.

By Feb. 8, Smith realized Turner was not breathing as deep as she should. Smith called Decker, the primary care physician, and was advised to take her grandmother to the hospital to see Labul.

Labul saw her, read her medical records, ran a variety of tests, and decided to treat her for the pulmonary disease. He admitted Turner to the hospital, Boyle said.

Smith did not get answers for why her grandmother kept falling asleep and whether she had pneumonia, she said.

Labul also treated Turner with an anti-psychotic drug after she experienced hallucinations.

Turner’s oxygen saturation continued to be below 90 percent. Labul increased her oxygen in increments and increased it to six liters on Feb. 11. Labul recommended that she be put in a nursing home or assisted living center. He also said she should be declared medically incompetent.


On the morning of Feb. 11, Turner’s oxygen saturation level rose above 90 percent. Turner was released from FMH at 4:34 p.m. to go to a skilled nursing facility, Orchard Park in Farmington, according to the lawsuit. Turner still had difficulty breathing and had been hallucinating prior to being discharged from FMH, Boyle said. Turner died at 7:25 p.m.

Rapaport said the jury would hear that Labul reviewed all of Turner’s medical records before she arrived at the hospital on Feb. 8. Labul, a veteran doctor, also examined her and reviewed the results of tests.

He gained information and used his training and experience to determine the best treatment, Rapaport said. One of the complaints was that Labul was treating her for pulmonary disease and did not consider pneumonia. That was not the case. He determined it was not pneumonia, Rapaport said. Doctors frequently do not write down everything they are thinking, he said.

The jury would also learn that Turner had decided previously to be a “do not resuscitate patient,” Rapaport said.

There was a change in her condition at the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011, he said. She had fallen several times and was hallucinating.

No autopsy was done on Turner’s body to determine the exact cause of death, Rapaport said.

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