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$1 million awarded in malpractice suit

May 22, 2004|By PEPPER BALLARD

A Washington County Circuit Court jury on Friday awarded $1 million to the estate and wife of Jay Grove Ocker, a Hagerstown man who died July 4, 2001, nearly a month after bowel surgery performed by Dr. John Itsuro Uchino.

The six-person jury ruled that Uchino violated the accepted standard of care in his treatment of Ocker and that such a violation caused the 62-year-old man's death.

According to the lawsuit, on June 10, 2001, Ocker's mesentery was found thickened at the Washington County Hospital emergency room. The next day, according to the suit, Uchino performed an exploratory laparotomy on Ocker and found a "small bowel volvulus" involving 15 centimeters of his bowel, which was colored dark purple.

"However, rather than performing a small bowel resection as required by the standards of care, the defendant Uchino simply untwisted the bowel, and left it intact," according to the suit.

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After a few days worth of signs indicating Ocker was not recovering from his illness, the man was transferred to another medical institution and "several feet" of bowel were removed. But despite the efforts of medical professionals there, Ocker died July 4, 2001, due to "multi-organ system failure," according to the suit.

Ocker's wife, Janell Ocker, filed the lawsuit. The jury awarded her late husband's estate $750,000 and awarded her $250,000.

Uchino had no comment after the hearing.

Janell Ocker said after the hearing that the trial has been difficult.

"I guess I feel relief," she said. "I think I can finally know that my husband will rest in peace."

- Pepper Ballard

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