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Former Worker's Family Wins Suit

By Charles Flowers

FORT LAUDERDALE - The family of Kevin Brown, former comptroller of the Seminole Housing Department who died last year when a relatively minor infection was misdiagnosed as the flu, was awarded nearly $8 million.

Mr. Brown, a Type II diabetic, was 46 when he asked his son Peter to drive him to the doctor in Cooper City. He was running a fever of 104.5 degrees, low blood pressure and a rapid pulse.

The doctor, Douglas David, said he thought Mr. Brown was suffering from the flu, and gave him Tylenol and Lodine, a muscle relaxant, according to court records. Three days later, Mr. Brown was dead, and his family sued Dr. David for medical malpractice.

In early September, a six-person jury agreed and awarded his widow Pamela, and her four children a total of $7,772,583.

Peter, 18 years old at the time of his father's death, was a key witness. He testified he was with his father throughout the examination, and that at no time did the doctor tell Mr. Brown he needed blood work. Experts said a simple blood test could have detected the staph infection, which could have been treated by antibiotics. Peter's testimony contradicted Dr. David, and the jury apparently decided that Peter, an honor student at Broward Community College and a former Eagle Scout, was telling the truth. "Infection is a huge problem in diabetics," commented Suzanne Davis, Diabetes and Health Education Program Manager for the Tribe. "Their resistance is lower, and their circulatory systems are not able to clear it as well."

She added that at least 10 percent of Tribal members have Type II diabetes, which means their bodies are capable of producing some insulin. Type I diabetics need regular insulin injections.

In Kevin Brown's case, the cause of death was more arrogance than ignorance.

"The doctor knew he was diabetic," said the Browns' attorney Andrew Yoffa, of Boca Raton. "He just didn't appreciate how sick he was. He never worked him up."

The family's award was determined this way: $1 million each to four children, aged 10-19, and the remaining $3.7 million to Mr. Brown's widow, a teacher at Blanche Forman Elementary School in Davie. The couple would have celebrated 25 years of marriage this year.

"He was a good employee," remembered Finance Director Ted Boyd, who said Mr. Brown worked under Joel Frank in the Seminole Housing Department for five years.

Frank agreed with that assessment. "Everyone liked Kevin," he said. "He came on board with the Housing Authority and stayed on with the department after the Tribe took it over."

"It's a sizable award," said Yoffa, of Grossman & Roth P.A., Boca Raton. "Do I think it's excessive given this family's loss? Absolutely not."

Yoffa said the judgement was not the highest of any case he has handled. Last year, his firm won a $15 million award against Florida Power & Light Co. for the company's failure to fix a stoplight that led to a fatal traffic accident. The final payment to the Browns is subject to an appeal, and possible negotiation by the doctor's malpractice insurors.

"If you asked this woman (Mrs. Brown) if she would like two more minutes with her husband or $2 billion dollars, she'd choose the two minutes. No question," the lawyer said.

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