Jury finds Basalt surgeon not responsible for blood clot death
November 17, 2015
An Aspen jury deliberated less than an hour and a half Friday before finding a Basalt orthopedic surgeon not responsible for the death of a Carbondale man three years ago.
"All I did was try to provide the best care," Dr. Thomas Moore said after the verdict was announced Friday afternoon.
The case stemmed from the death of Hans Ayers, 48, who died Dec. 18, 2012, at Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs after complaining of having difficulty breathing. Moore had repaired a ruptured tendon in Ayers' left knee about six weeks before his death.
Ayers' mother, Ursula Ayers, sued Moore in April 2014, accusing him of not recognizing that her son had a blood clot in the deep veins behind his knee, which caused his death.
Ursula Ayers declined to comment after the verdict.
Dave Dansky, Ursula Ayers' attorney, told jurors during closing arguments Friday that Moore performed a "half-baked" examination of Hans Ayers' leg on Dec. 17, 2012, before telling him to remove his cast at home and come back to Moore's office in two days.
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Moore should have removed the cast himself and done a "thorough, competent examination" of Hans Ayers' leg, said Dansky, a Denver lawyer.
Had he done that, he would have seen evidence of the clot, including swelling of the leg and a skin condition on his foot, he said.
"What kind of examination is that?" Dansky said. "(Ursula Ayers) will never see her son again because this man couldn't take five or 10 minutes to do the basics."
But Kim Childs, Moore's lawyer, told jurors that Hans Ayers never told Moore about a syndrome he had that can cause clotting as well as the fact that he was taking testosterone, which also can cause clotting. Moore testified that had he known those things, he would have treated Hans Ayers differently, Childs said.
When he examined Hans Ayers on Dec. 17, 2012, Moore saw nothing odd about his leg, and Hans Ayers had no complaints about it, he said. And even if he had taken off the cast, experts testified that it was unlikely the doctor could have seen the clot because it was deep inside Hans Ayers' leg, Childs said.
"If Hans Ayers died unrelated to what Dr. Moore did, there's no case," said Childs, of Delta.
And that's exactly what the jury of three men and three women decided.
"It was a matter of the plaintiff's case being able to tie the actions of Dr. Moore to the cause of death," David Kelly, the jury foreman, said afterward. "It seemed like (the death) would have happened regardless, even if the cast was removed."
Kelly said jurors were on the same page from the beginning, which was part of the reason deliberations were so short.
Moore said he was "pleased" with the decision and relieved the trial was over, though he acknowledged the tragedy of the situation.
"I'm very sorry (for the death), as I said from the beginning," Moore said.