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Texas Court Says Hospital Must Pay Parents of Dead Boy Damages

July 16, 1986

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) _ A hospital must pay $850,000 damages to the parents of a boy who died after being refused treatment because his family did not have money or insurance, the Texas Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.

Fermin Gracia Jr, 9, died Aug. 1, 1979, of complications that apparently developed after he was kicked in the stomach, according to court records.

The Texas Supreme Court, without writing an opinion, said it found no reversible error in the Corpus Christi Court of Appeals decision upholding a trial court ruling granting the $850,000 to Fermin Gracia Sr. and his wife Guadalupe of Brownsville.

The money is to be paid by two hospitals - including the one that had the boy transferred to another facility apparently because the family had no money - and a Brownsville doctor.

The Gracias took their son to a Matamoros, Mexico, hospital July 16, 1979, after he was injured. After four days, the parents took him to Brownsville Medical Center.

Dr. Elias Lorenzana examined the child in the emergency room and recommended that his parents take him to a pediatrician the next day, according to court records.

On July 23, the Gracias took their son to Valley Community Hospital in Brownsville, where he was diagnosed as having possible pancreas and liver injuries that could require surgery. But a hospital social worker determined the family had no hospital insurance and did not qualify for a financial assistance plan, according to court records.

According to records, the social worker told the parents the boy would be taken to John Sealy Hospital in Galveston, which she described as ″the place where we usually send people that cannot afford to pay.″

The parents were told they had to sign a transfer consent form that was already filled out, according to testimony.

Experts differed on the cause of death. Jurors ruled that Brownsville Medical Center and Valley Community Hospital were 90 percent responsible for the death. Lorenzana was held 10 percent liable.

The hospitals appealed, but the 13th Court of Appeals, in a June 28, 1985, opinion, said both hospitals were negligent.

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