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Johnson Co. Jury Awards $2.88 Million in Wrongful Death in Malpractice Case

It’s the largest Johnson County medical malpractice verdict in almost 25 years.

A Johnson County jury awarded a family nearly $3 million in a malpractice case against a pain clinic.

Joel Burnette was described as kind, hardworking, and proud. Sometimes too proud to admit when he was in pain.

“First he had lost a lot of weight. He would hold his back. He would kind of limp to an extent. There were times when he would just stop in his track and just kind of grimace,” said Kelly Buckert who has known Joel Burnette for 13 years.

Burnette worked with Buckert at Charlie Hooper’s Brookside Bar & Grille. Court records say the pain stemmed from a steroid injection that developed into meningitis and a chronic nerve disorder in his spine. Burnette’s parents, Vernon and Gail, said that pain is what caused him to take his own life in 2013. And a Johnson Co. jury agreed.

“Was the doctor negligent? The judge said the answer to that question was yes. The judge said was the pain clinic negligent? And the answer to that is yes. Gail and Vernon didn’t hear anything after that,” said Scott Nutter, the Burnette’s attorney.

A Johnson County jury awarded Vernon and Gail Burnette $2.88 million for the suffering and wrongful death of their son Joel. The jury’s decision was after the first injection, Burnette developed an infection. The doctors at PainCare, a clinic in Overland Park, injected him with the second dose anyway.

In a statement, Vernon and Gail Burnette said:
“We hope the verdict raises awareness of the dangers of pain injections. We also hope Dr. Eubanks and the PainCare clinic change their policies. A doctor should be required to carefully examine the patient before any injection. We do not want what happened to our son to happen to anyone else.”

Bruce Kepplinger, the attorney for the doctor and clinic, says he will file two motions in the upcoming weeks to give the judge a “chance at fixing the verdict.”
He says witnesses testified that Burnette took his own life because of psychiatric issues.
He will ask the trial judge for a new trial and to amend the judgment. If the judge denies the motions, Keplinger says he’ll appeal the verdict.