Howard jury awards $1.24 million to man, 79, who sued over paralysis

November 04, 1997|By Caitlin Francke | Caitlin Francke,SUN STAFF

Being deaf didn't stop Leo M. Jacobs from doing what he wanted with his life. A math teacher for more than 40 years, he later wrote one of the best-selling books on deafness and was named to a special chair at Gallaudet University for the deaf.

But six years ago, Jacobs, 79, lost his independence, becoming paralyzed from the waist down after an abscess near his spinal cord was not diagnosed properly.

Today, he stands to receive $1.24 million, awarded by a Howard County Circuit Court jury after it found a Laurel urologist and a medical practice responsible for Jacobs' life as a paraplegic.

The Silver Spring man needs a live-in aide.

"I can hardly consider deafness a challenge as I was born deaf," Jacobs said. " However, paralysis has placed me in an unenviable and humiliating position."

Jacobs wrote "A Deaf Adult Speaks Out," a best-seller.

After a two-week trial, the jury deliberated about seven hours Friday and decided that Dr. Thomas A. MacLean and the Laurel practice of MacLean, Kishel and Appelstein misdiagnosed an abscess near Jacobs' spinal cord.

The jury absolved three other doctors -- John J. Kishel, Marc B. Appelstein and Gregory McCormack -- and Howard County General Hospital of any liability.

The jury decided that Dr. Meade Flynn had been negligent, but Judge Raymond J. Kane struck down the finding, ruling that the complaint was beyond the statute of limitations.

Dr. Jerry E. Seals of Ellicott City settled the case for an undisclosed amount before trial.

Steven F. Barley, attorney for MacLean, said his client is not at fault and plans to ask the judge to reconsider the jury's decision.

Pub Date: 11/04/97

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