Friday, January 24, 2003
Ex-Hockey Player’s Suit Against Team Doctor Reinstated
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A malpractice suit by a former Los Angeles King’s defenseman against the team doctor, a hospital, and two other physicians has been reinstated by this district’s Court of Appeal.
Div. Five ruled Tuesday that a triable issue exists as to whether Mark Visheau filed suit within a year of the date that he knew, or should have known, that he had a claim. Justice Orville Armstrong authored the unpublished opinion.
Visheau, 29, claims his hockey career ended prematurely because a 1999 injury was not properly treated.
The Ontario, Canada native was a 1992 draft choice of the Winnipeg Jets, for whom he played a single game in the 1993-94 season. He then played for various minor league teams until the Kings, who signed him as a free agent, called him up for the 1998-99 season.
Visheau, who is listed by various sources as 6 feet, 5 inches or 6 feet, 6 inches tall and played at 235 pounds, lasted 28 games as a King. He scored a goal and three assists and accumulated 107 penalty minutes.
He contends that he underwent “unnecessary” surgery at Centinela Hospital Medical Center in February 1999 for what was diagnosed as a narrow ureter, the tube that carries urine from the kidney to the bladder. Two days later, he got nauseated and began vomiting, which led to a second surgery to remove swelling caused by blood that had pooled, he claims.
He testified that the physicians discharged him after about two weeks, but he checked himself back in the day the next day, complaining of weakness. He underwent a third surgery and drains were placed in his kidney. Visheau claims the follow-up care was “below standard” and the repeated surgeries would never heal properly.
He alleges that his body was damaged so badly from repeated surgeries that he was unable to play, and that he told his agent doctors “nearly killed me.”
He sued the Inglewood-based hospital, part of the Tenet Healthcare chain, along with his treating physicians there, Drs. Lawrence Paletz and Ernest Agatstein, in September 2000. Also named as a defendant was team physician Michael Mellman, an internal medical specialist who diagnosed a kidney problem and admitted Visheau to Centinela.
Visheau claims that Mellman was negligent in not advising him to seek a second opinion regarding the original surgery, not advising him of alternatives, insisting that his career was over if he did not undergo the operation, and failing to tell Agastein and Paletz that he had passed a kidney stone.
Visheau returned to Canada after the season, intending to get back into shape and resume his career, he contends, but felt severe pain after being checked into the boards during a summer pickup game and learned the following winter that his body would not allow him to play professionally again.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Jean Matusinka granted the defendants’ motion for nonsuit at the close of the plaintiff’s case, ruling that the one-year period began to run when he had the first surgery.
But Armstrong, writing for the Court of Appeal, said the motion should have been denied. A jury, he said, could have concluded from Visheau’s testimony, and from an offer of proof made during argument on the motion for nonsuit, that while the athlete suspected “sloppy care,” he did not suspect that he had suffered injury as a result of that care until his Canadian doctors told him his abdominal muscles were too badly damaged for him to play again.
Prior to that time, he said, Visheau was entitled to rely on the defendants’ assurances that he was progressing and would be able to play again.
The appeal was argued by Timothy J. Gorry of Gorry Meyer & Rudd for Visheau, Adam R. James of Dummit, Faber, Beiegleb & Diamond for Centinela, Rebecca Hogue of Schmid & Voiles for Paletz and Agatstein, and Rebecca L. Smith of Reback, McAndrews & Kjar for Mellman.
The case is Visheau v. Centinela Hospital Medical Center, B154995.
Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company