Hospital may fight $2.2 million award

Florida Hospital says the anesthesiologist wasn’t an employee.

By Greg Groeller

Florida Hospital may appeal a jury’s decision to award millions of dollars to the husband of a woman who claimed that a bungled medical procedure left her paralyzed.

In a suit filed in 1996, Eleanor Karstetter of Kissimmee claimed that an anesthesiologist at the hospital punctured her spinal cord 18 times while trying to insert a morphine pump – a device designed to alleviate chronic back pain – near her spine. Karstetter, who was paralyzed below the waist, died in 1998 at the age of 67.

Florida Hospital had argued that it wasn’t liable because the doctor, Douglas Conigliaro, was not an employee of the hospital when the incident occurred Nov 28, 1995. Rather, Conigliaro was employed by Joseph L. Riley Anesthesia Associates, a private company whose employees worked at Florida Hospital’s pain clinic on its campus near downtown Orlando.

Conigliaro, who still works at Florida Hospital for Joseph L. Riley, could not be reached for comment. Conigliaro and Joseph L. Riley reached a $1 million settlement with Eleanor Karstetter’s husband, Robert, in April 1999.

A jury didn’t buy Florida Hospital’s argument that Conigliaro wasn’t an employee. In its verdict, the jury said that the doctor was the “apparent agent” of the hospital, meaning that most patients would think that he was a hospital employee. The jury agreed to the suit’s request for $3.2 million in damages. A judge later reduced the award to $2.2 million to reflect Conigliaro’s settlement with Robert Karstetter.

“We are disappointed and surprised with the judgment, and we are investigating all options, which include the possibility of an appeal,” Florida Hospital said in a statement.

A spokeswoman for the hospital would not comment further.

According to the suit, Conigliaro tried for seven hours to insert the morphine pump into Eleanor Karstetter’s spine, a procedure that normally takes two hours. Although Karstetter was showing evidence of paralysis, Conigliaro waited an additional seven hours after the procedure ended before consulting a neurosurgeon, the suit stated.

The size of the jury’s award is not considered unusually high given the extent of Karstetter’s injuries, said Robert Cunningham, a Mobile, Ala. lawyer who specializes in medical malpractice suits.

“Generally, hospitals will deny everything and that makes things worse for them if it goes to a jury,” Cunningham said.

In the suit, the Karstetters argued that there was no way for them to tell that Conigliaro was not an employee of the hospital. The procedure was done on Florida Hospital’s property with hospital-owned equipment. Furthermore, no signs were posted stating doctors weren’t employees, the suit stated.

“One of the biggest reasons my wife and I agreed to be treated at the Florida Hospital pain clinic was because we believed it was part of the Florida Hospital system,” Robert Karstetter said in the suit.

Hospitals often argue that doctors aren’t employees when they are defendants in medial malpractice cases, said Bill Bell, an attorney for the Florida Hospital Association. Whether a jury agrees with that argument depends on the details of the case, he said.

The Orlando Sentinel
Thu., February 10, 2000

Savior of freedom, Great Emancipator

Abraham Lincoln’s birthday today returns the man to our thoughts once again, this man known as the Great Emancipator. Historians unanimously identify him as our greatest president.

“Why was he great?” the question recurs.

The frequent answer is, “He freed the slaves”

Yet his detractors say the Emancipation Proclamation freed no slaves. It applied only to Confederate states, where Lincoln had no authority. Had the South respected his decree, we would have had the irony of slavery in some Northern states, such as Maryland, loyal to the Union, but no slaves in the South.

Indeed, Lincoln was the death knell to slavery and freed the slaves by deeds as well as words. Lincoln believed, and the U.S. Supreme Court held, that the Constitution protected slavery in states where it existed and that neither he nor Congress could change it. Not so in the vast federal territories. The new states could be admitted on conditions Congress specified. Because of Lincoln’s opposition to slavery’s expansion, the Confederacy was formed, war ensued and all slaves were liberated.

Lincoln’s priority was preservation of the Union. Like President George Bush, who said, “Read my lips, no new taxes,” before the election and then raised taxes after the election, Lincoln, too, could have reversed his campaign rhetoric and not stood in the way of slavery expansion. As much as he wanted to avoid war, he held firm to his belief that slavery was a monstrous injustice. Thus, the Civil War ensued, and 600,000 men died on the battlefield.

The Emancipation Proclamation, though, was more than symbolism. It told the South that Lincoln’s war aims were no longer limited to preservation of the Union. The war aims then included total abolition of slavery, which would mean the destruction of the South’s economic base.

How could he justify emancipation in the middle of the war when he felt that it was protected constitutionally before the war?

During war, the president has authority he doesn’t have in peacetime. Lincoln exercised his war powers, declaring slaves to be free, as a weapon to win the war. Finally, he sponsored and advocated in Congress the 13th Amendment to the Constitution to abolish slavery. It passed during his presidency and was ratified by the states after his death.

When the nation was falling apart, Lincoln saved it. Our Founding Fathers drafted a flawed Constitution; Lincoln fixed it. He saved our republic and gave us a new birth of freedom the way the Declaration of Independence intended it to be.

What else did he give to earn the title of Great Emancipator? He gave “the last full measure of devotion.” John Wilkes Boothe killed Lincoln for no other reason than Lincoln destroyed slavery.

In his second Inaugural Address, Lincoln set the stage for reconciliation with these words revered by some historians as highly as the Gettysburg Address:

“With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan – to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.”

My Word
By Russell Troutman
The Orlando Sentinel
Thu. February 12, 1998

Woman wins $1M jury award in car crash caused by brother

By Alex Finkelstein

An Orange Circuit Court jury has awarded a 31-year-old Orlando woman $1 million for injuries she received in a 1995 auto accident in which her brother was the driver – but she lost $177,085 of the award because she did not fasten her seat belt.

The jury recommended deducting $177,085, or 15 percent, from the $1,180,572 awarded to Christina Harris. But, says her Winter Park attorney, Russell Troutman of Troutman, Williams, Irvin, Green & Helms, she isn’t complaining. “She walked away with $1,003,486,” says Troutman.

A company car driven by Harris’ 28-year-old brother, Edward Ray Harris II, struck a utility pole at 2:20 a.m. in 1995 on Chipola Circle in Orlando.

Christina Harris suffered numerous physical injuries but has returned to her job as a check inspector with Clarke American Co. Edward Harris also recovered from his injuries.

On Aug. 15, a jury hearing in Judge A. Walter Komanski’s courtroom ruled Edward Harris was 85 percent responsible for the accident.

Harris’ employer, Inter Mobile Inc. of Georgia, has assumed legal responsibility for his accident (Case No. CI 96-5084-35).

Aug. 22, 1997
Orlando Business Journal

State will pay medical bills in victory for ailing trooper

By Mike Oliver

The state has agreed to pay the medical bills of a Florida trooper who attributes his liver failure to being poisoned by drug dealers.

Richard “Spanky” Chapman, who underwent a liver transplant in January 1996, received notice on Monday that he will get workers’ compensation benefits.

“This is a great, great victory for Spanky,” said Russell Troutman Chapman’s lawyer. “He has the security now of knowing that his medical bills will be paid for life.”

The state had originally turned down Chapman’s request. But according to the settlement, the state now agrees on a job accident date – Nov. 18, 1988 – which led to Chapman’s liver problems.

The state will cover all bills relating to the liver condition but will not pay for kidney problems Chapman is having, according to the settlement. The lawyer for the state did not return a phone call.

Chapman, who is back at work for the Florida Highway Patrol doing office work, also will receive disability income if he is unable to work in the future, Troutman said.

“I’m pleased,” said Chapman, who fatigues easily now. “I’ve had insurance, but there’s a cap on that. If something down the road happened big, I would have been in trouble. I’ve got a lifetime of medications and testing ahead of me.”

The state originally denied Chapman’s claim, saying it was filed after the two-year statute of limitations and that there was no link between his mysterious ailment and the job.

Chapman said he thought he was poisoned in 1988 when he handled packages of drugs that were soaked in chemicals to mask the smell of the drugs. Chapman, who said he doesn’t drink and has no family history of liver disease, started having liver problems shortly after that incident

Chapman was a pioneer in the patrol’s use of dogs to find illegal drugs transported on state roads. He and a drug-sniffing German shepherd named Abby helped seize nearly $50 million worth of illegal drugs and made nearly 1,000 arrests from 1983 to 1991.

In those days, Chapman often searched cars bare-handed. Troopers now use gloves.

In 1992, Abby got sick and died of liver failure.

The Orlando Sentinel
Wed., JULY 30, 1997

Don’t blame court for freeing felons

Much discussion revolves around the unpopular decision of the Florida Supreme Court releasing hundreds of serious criminal offenders upon Florida society. Both the judicial system in general and the Florida Supreme Court in particular have taken a renewed fall from grace.

However, castigating the Florida Supreme Court is misdirected. If blame is to be cast, let us not falsely accuse but place it where it belongs, namely, on us, the people.

In 1985, the Florida Legislature passed Section 944.275 (4) (b) as follows:

“For each month in which a prisoner works diligently, participates in training, uses time constructively or otherwise engages in positive activities, that the Department of Corrections may grant up to 20 days of incentive gain time, which shall be credited and applied monthly.”

Although the U.S. Supreme Court in Weaver vs. Graham in 1981 ruled the word “may” gives discretion to the Department of Corrections to determine who works diligently and uses time constructively, once eligibility is determined, the Department of Corrections has no discretion to deny gain time.

Nevertheless, the attorney general in 1996 circumvented the statute by authorizing a rule prohibiting gain time to certain classes of inmates. Based on his opinion, gain time of otherwise eligible inmates was denied.

In short, the Florida Legislature made a contract with convicted criminals. For each month that a prisoner worked diligently and used time constructively, the prisoner would receive 20 days of credit on the sentence. It was the U.S. Supreme Court, not the Florida Supreme Court, that held that this statutory contract could not be repealed by subsequent administrative rule. Any such administrative rule (or statute for that matter) is an ex post facto law prohibited by Article I, Section 10, Clause I of the United States Constitution. In evaluating an ex post facto violation, a two-prong test is applied: one, whether the law under scrutiny is retrospective; and two, whether the law increases the penalty.

The attempt to change the law from what it was when crimes were committed is clearly retrospective and further increases the penalty by which a crime was punishable when the crime was committed.

No doubt, guilty pleas and judicial sentences were negotiated and imposed with knowledge a prisoner could obtain gain time for good conduct.

What we have here is a contract made by the Florida Legislature in 1985, followed by an attempt by the initiating contracting party to breach the contract. Call it a bad contract, if you will, but the court system must do what it would for any contracting party, namely, enforce it.

The horror of the decision is magnified by the accumulation of previously qualified prisoners. But for the state waffling, there would have been a slower and less noticeable introduction of prisoners into the free world.

The Supreme Court is intermittently criticized for making law instead of interpreting law.

Any criticism of the court here implies the court should have made new law or ignored law enacted by elected representatives.

My Word
By Russell Troutman
The Orlando Sentinel
Thu. December 12, 1996

Spaziano’s new trial: Welcome opportunity for justice

Your editorial of Jan. 24. “Justice Clearly Cheated,” assumes Joseph Spaziano is guilty of murder. Take that assumption away, and your headline may have read, “Injustice Barely Cheated.”

Spaziano was convicted 20 years ago of killing a woman whose body was found in a dump. The state’s case was dependent upon Tony DiLisio, a key witness who testified that Spaziano showed him the body. Now DiLisio has recanted that testimony, and a new trial has been ordered for Spaziano.

One of the nation’s respected newspapers, The Miami Herald, believed DiLisio’s recantation, and so did one of our most law-and-order judges, O.H. Eaton Jr. Judge Eaton is hard-sell in criminal matters, and if he, along with The Miami Herald, believe DiLisio now, I am confident so would most people.

However, for death-penalty advocates, and I am one, we can be thankful for these 20 years. If the state had executed Spaziano 15 years ago, as the editorial suggests, and then DiLisio developed the need to purge his conscience, Spaziano would now be a martyr, and death-penalty foes would be handed a rallying cry to overthrow the death penalty for all times.

Once it is proven without doubt the wrong man was executed, the vocal minority will gain strength in numbers, and under a democracy, the Legislature will respond to what might then become the majority.

Regarding the often-cited argument of the cost in maintaining a death-row inmate, certainly a civilized society does not favor capital punishment because it is cheaper. In fact, economic husbandry would be served by killing all law violators. Besides, states without the death penalty house convicted murderers, not merely for 20 years but for life.

Regarding your contention that a new trial would be futile because the evidence is gone. the fact remains that, without DiLisio’s testimony, there could have been no conviction in the first place. DiLisio’s original testimony was hypnotically refreshed testimony, which our Supreme Court has since ruled inadmissible, and justifiably so, based on the DiLisio experience. My guess is that the long delay was influenced by the reluctance to execute someone on the strength of hypnotically refreshed testimony, now recognized as unreliable.

Nevertheless, the fact that witnesses in the original trial are now dead is no deterrent to a new trial. Under the Rules of Evidence, their testimony can be read to a new jury with more drama and effect than the original witnesses presented. This is because the state can produce nice-appearing people with good voices to read the direct and cross examination of the original testimony with emphasis and feeling.

It may well be that “Crazy Joe” Spaziano is the culprit of the worst order, but we must adhere to the principle that we convict people for crimes with which they are charged and not for crimes with which they are not charged.

The judgment of your strong editorial is reminiscent of Lincoln’s lament long ago that the tragedy of the Civil War was that the best generals were newspaper publishers. Paraphrasing Lincoln, it seems our best judges are newspaper editorialists.

My Word
By Russell Troutman
The Orlando Sentinel
Thu. February 1, 1996


By: Louis Roney

These days we hear much talk about lawyers, with the O.J. Simpson trial as daily TV fare.

A book has appeared about Marsha Clark, her marriage, victories and defeats. Newspapers and magazines carry articles on Johnny Cochran, Shapiro, and F. Lee Bailey.

But, here in Winter Park, we have our own famous advocate. Russell Troutman has figuratively landed on the beaches of Normandy many times, and has walked away unscathed. He has ambled in and out of our courtrooms with every cause imaginable on his agenda.

The other day over coffee, Russell was in the mood to talk about his legal activities. I jumped at the chance to report Russell “live” in this column. Here goes:

Recently, a motorist, arrested for recording – without permission – police officers who were citing him for speeding and inadequate seat belts, came before Judge Robert Evans. After hearing arguments by Russell and the state attorney, Evans ruled that police officers have no expectation of privacy in making arrests. The case was dismissed, establishing the precedent that if police can record us without permission, we can record them as well.

In recent weeks, Russell concluded a case favorable to his client against Longwood, for giving the broadcast media access to a video tape of a young lady undressing before cameras hidden by a travel agent supposedly photographing her for a job interview. The young lady discovered the tape, smuggled it out, and turned it over to her police department. The tape helped convict the culprit in the criminal court of Seminole County. All she got was unwanted publicity from television news showing (censored) footage of the tape.

In recent weeks, Russell blazed a new trail for law enforcement. In behalf of an Orange County Deputy Sheriff, Troutman sued a business owner for operating a convenience store that was in the center of drug activity. The deputy received a broken finger from a drug suspect who resisted arrest. Troutman alleged that law enforcement had received hundreds of police calls to the property in question in recent months and years. This case too established a precedent: businesses that tolerate drug traffic in and around their stores are liable for damages to people who are injured as a result of drug traffic.

The above are but little causes of creative lawyering.

Many of the major civil cases which occur in this area also carry Russell’s imprimatur.

The most famous is the Philip Chandler case. Philip was imprisoned in the trunk of his car by a couple of hooligans on a hot Florida day. When left in a parking area by the scoundrels, Philip was unconscious and brain damaged. The offenders were arrested and sent to jail. What about damages? The thugs are penniless and therefore judgment-proof.

Phil’s Dad came to Russell to get a judgment against the criminals, even if uncollectible. Russell succeeded, and in the process obtained a monetary recovery of $1500 tax-free dollars a month for life, plus $20,000 tax-free bonuses every five years for 25 years.

How did Troutman achieve monetary relief for Philip? Even Russell’s partners were skeptical that any remedy at all was available. But Russell applied the uninsured motorist coverage Phil’s Dad carried on the car. Phil was riding as an imprisoned passenger- but nevertheless a passenger -when he received his injury by uninsured motorists. According to the Orlando Sentinel, the structured recovery will reap 1.4 million in monetary support to Phil and provide him with bread-and-butter money for life.

Million-dollar recoveries are not unusual for Russell Troutman. He won a million dollar recovery for an Orlando cop when the police officer, riding his motorcycle, was struck by a drunk driver in a borrowed pickup truck.

Russell won a one million dollar verdict from a Kissimmee jury in behalf of a Kissimmee police officer who received a head injury while working as an undercover cop. Someone who recognized his status threw a concrete block through his car window inflicting on him a serious head injury.

For every case which receives

The civil side of the court is where Russell is best known.

But his representations in the criminal courts have been equally brilliant. He won acquittal several years ago for two prominent real estate developers indicted for opening their safety deposit boxes seized by the IRS in an income tax dispute.

The acquittal of a prominent black lawyer charged with obstruction of justice, and represented by Troutman, came a year later.

Russell represented Betty Williams following her acquittal in federal court by another attorney, when she was again investigated. The charges emanated from the same facts that had convicted her husband, son, and daughter. As a result of Russell’s representation, Betty was not indicted.

The vice mayor of Kissimmee, Bill McMullan, charged with two felony grand theft counts, also won acquittal through Russell’s counsel in Osceola County. The acquittal was appealed by the state attorney and upheld.

Russell tells me the ordinary working person is his favorite client. Joe Powell, a Winter Park paramedic, was arrested for taping a meeting in the city manager’s office without permission. That case too was dismissed by Circuit Judge Richard Conrad on the grounds that the city manager “had no reasonable expectation of privacy” and could therefore be taped without permission.

Presently, Russell is undertaking to defend an elderly grandmother charged with instructing her grandson to kill her husband. That case comes up in July.

The famous too have sought out Russell for representation.

Paula Hawkins, while chairman of the Public Service Commission, hired him to represent the Public Service Commission in the famous Florida Power Daisy Chain scandal. Russell’s representation resulted in millions of dollars in refunds to the Florida Power subscribers.

Bob Eagan, while state attorney, hired Russell to represent him in a grand jury investigation which resulted in no indictments being returned against Mr. Eagan.

Lou Wolfson, the famous financier, has employed Russell to represent him in a controversy with talk show host Larry King as well as to correct discriminatory constitutional provisions against a Florida city.

Judges, lawyers, doctors, and a whole race of humankind, have flocked to Troutman’s doors seeking his advocacy to take their part. He is a lawyer whose standing in the courts is likely exceeded by no other attorney of our area.

Russell quotes his life’s creed to me from a favorite Sam Foss poem: “The House By The Side Of The Road”

Let me live in my house by the side of the road – it’s here the race of men go by. They are good, they are bad, they are weak, they are strong. Wise, foolish – so am I. And why should I sit in the scorner’s seat, or hurl the cynics ban? Let me live in my house by the side of the road and be a friend to man.

The Winter Park Observer

Deputy fights crime with a lawsuit against store owners

An attorney says it’s the first time a law officer has used the civil courts to crack down on a crime problem.

By Christopher Quinn

An Orange County deputy sheriff injured during an arrest at a convenience store two years ago sued the store owners Thursday, saying the site was a hangout for criminals but the owners did nothing to shoo them away.

The lawsuit is unusual because a law enforcement officer is using the civil court system to crack down on a crime problem, said Russell Troutman, attorney for detective Robert Corriveau.

“The whole purpose of law enforcement bringing suit against wrongdoers is to send a message to the criminal community that not only will they be held criminally accountable, but civilly accountable as well,” Troutman said.

According to Corriveau’s lawsuit, deputies were called to the Big B Food Store, 900 Ivey Lane, 385 times in 1990 and 1991, handling such offenses as conspiracy to commit murder and disorderly conduct.

In March 1991, Corriveau was a drug agent and was arresting a suspected crack cocaine dealer outside the store, which detectives said is known for curbside drug sales.

The suspect tried to flee, but Corriveau grabbed his shirt, catching his pinkie in it. The suspect lurched, and Corriveau’s pinkie snapped. The suspect punched Corriveau in the face.

Corriveau needed surgery to repair his finger, and he lost some use of it. In his lawsuit, he said the owners of the business and the land were negligent because they did not employ security or other safeguards.

“It should be a shock to Orange County that one little old convenience store could have this many calls for service,” Troutman said.

The lawsuit does not involve the store’s current owners.

The defendants are Ozell and Mary Johnson, who own the building and land, and Suleiman K. Solomon, who leased the site and owned the business. Solomon has since sold the company. The defendants were not available for comment.

Troutman has represented law enforcement officers in lawsuits against criminals. Last year he won a $1.1 million judgment against a man who threw a chunk of concrete at a Kissimmee police officer. Last year he negotiated a settlement of more than $1 million with a Tampa landscaping company. A driver for the company, while drunk, crashed into an Orlando police officer in 1990, ending the officer’s career.

The Orlando Sentinel
Fri., June 11, 1993

Dead girl’s family settles with dentist

The Crenshaws received $350,000 from the dentist’s insurer and are fighting a law that limits some malpractice awards.

By Debbie Salamone

SANFORD – The family of an Altamonte Springs girl who died in a dentist’s chair has settled its medical malpractice lawsuit against the dentist.

Scott and Barbara Crenshaw have received $350,000 from the insurance company of Altamonte Springs dentist Dwight Barron. They could receive another $600,000 if the Florida Supreme Court decides that limiting the amount of some medical malpractice awards is unconstitutional.

“It wasn’t much of a settlement, but I was glad we didn’t have to go through the trial process,” Barbara Crenshaw said,

The Crenshaws sued Barron for negligence after their daughter, Jenny, died in August 1989.

Medical experts have said Barron gave Jenny, 8, a lethal dose of medication; Barron said the girl had an allergic reaction.

Barron’s attorney, Joe McGuire, would not comment.

The state has stripped Barron of his dentist’s license, and he was sentenced to house arrest and probation after pleading guilty to manslaughter.

Barbara Crenshaw said the family had little choice but to accept the settlement. Barren had decided not to have a trial, limiting the amount the Crenshaws could collect under the law to $350,000.

The Crenshaws’ attorney, Russell Troutman, has argued that the law is unconstitutional.

But even if the law is overturned, Barbara Crenshaw said, it would not help much. Barron’s insurance policy has a $1 million maximum, and he has declared bankruptcy.

The mother said she has used the money to pay medical, counseling and other bills that piled up during the lengthy court proceedings.

“The settlement helped with everything,” she said. “But it is not compensation for the loss of Jenny.”

The Orlando Sentinel
Wed., July 2, 1992

Company pays officer $1 million in accident

The officer claims he lost his job due to injuries in a collision with a drunken company driver.

By Bob Levenson

A Tampa landscaping company has agreed to pay more than $1 million to a former Orlando police officer who was injured in a traffic accident with a company driver.

A trial in the negligence lawsuit by former Officer Kevin Jones against the firm, Tomasella & Co. Inc., had been scheduled to start Tuesday. But the two sides announced the $1.075 million settlement instead.

Jones, now 37, suffered three broken bones in his leg, a lacerated knee and a broken jaw in the accident on Oct. 14, 1990. The injuries ultimately ended his police career, said his attorney, Russell Troutman of Winter Park.

Jones had gotten off duty and was on his way home, headed east on Colonial Drive about 10 p.m., according to accident reports. A westbound pickup driven by Robert Fagley, 42, of Orlando, turned south onto Summerlin Avenue into Jones’ path, officers said.

Tests later revealed Fagley’s blood-alcohol level to be .18, and he was convicted of driving under the influence.

Troutman said Jones was off work for nearly a year, then reinjured his knee shortly after returning to work in October 1991. He was fired because he had missed too many days of work, Troutman said.

Jones currently is not working, but plans to return to college, Troutman said. The money will pay for his medical bills. According to a court transcript, Troutman will collect about $300,000 in attorney fees.

The Orlando Sentinel
Thu., July 2, 1992

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    Law Offices of Richard B. Troutman, P.A.

    Winter Park Office:

    1101 North Kentucky Ave.
    Winter Park, Florida 32789
    Ph. 407-647-5002

    Orlando Office:

    801 North Orange Ave.
    Suite 820
    Orlando, Florida 32801
    Ph. 866-434-5770