Opening statements were made Thursday in a wrongful death lawsuit involving Wayne Memorial Hospital and three doctors.

Opening statements were made Thursday morning in a wrongful death lawsuit involving Wayne Memorial Hospital and three doctors.

The lawsuit alleges 72 counts of negligence against Wayne Memorial Hospital and three doctors, in the wrongful death of Denis McDonnell in 2006.

Thomas Foley Jr. argued on behalf of the plaintiff and wife of the victim, Bonnie McDonnell.

The lawsuit, filed on Dec. 31, 2008 by Foley on behalf of Mrs. McDonnell, alleges that Drs. Rafael Achecar and Chang Lim, of Honesdale Anesthesia, and Dr. Robert Gorrell, cardio-thoracic surgeon, as well as Wayne Memorial Hospital, were negligent in McDonnell’s care.

Mr. McDonnell was admitted to Wayne Memorial Hospital on Sept. 12, 2006, for shortness of breath with an x-ray revealing pneumonia, which required surgery. Among other allegations, the lawsuit says McDonnell should have undergone surgery Sept. 13, based on his deteriorating health, but surgery did not occur until Sept. 14.

The lawsuit claims an incorrect pre-anesthesia assessment by Achecar and alleged negligence on the part of Lim and Gorrell lead to complications on the operating table.

An autopsy report says McDonnell died from “complication of anoxic encephelopathy following right-closed chest thoracostomy for treatment of loculated pneumonia.”

Attorney Patrick Carey, representing one of the doctors, said that McDonnell arrived at the hospital with a severe case of pneumonia, partially brought on by McDonnell’s 30-year smoking habit. With fluid buildup in his lungs, doctors tried to drain fluid with a needle, but discovered that the fluid in McDonnell’s lungs had a consistency of gelatin, so the thoracostomy was needed, Carey said.

Achecar faces fifteen counts of alleged negligence for failing to conduct a physical examination of McDonnell, failing to note respiratory distress and hypoxia (shortness of oxygen to the body) and listing him in the pre-anesthesia assessment as having an “anticipated good airway when it was it was not true.”

Officials at Wayne Memorial Hospital said they cannot say much at this time, but hope to be able to comment down the road on this case.

“The death of Mr. McDonnell was an unexpected and unfortunate event,” said Chief Executive Officer David Hoff. "We continue to extend our condolences to the family.”

The trial is expected to continue for two to three weeks at the Wayne County courthouse.