Graham Regional Medical Center is seeking to have a malpractice lawsuit dismissed. The original lawsuit was filed back in January, by plaintiff John Russell.

In the suit, Russell alleges that after a surgery performed on him by Dr. Donald Behr, a surgical towel was left inside his abdomen. The procedure was performed in August of 2009, but he did not begin experiencing problems until August of 2013. He went to another doctor and x-rays confirmed the presence of the object. Russell then underwent surgery in Wichita Falls a few weeks later to have the towel removed.

GRMC is seeking to have the lawsuit dismissed on the grounds that the plaintiff did not file the action within the specified time limitations for such claims. James Stouffer, the Fort Worth attorney representing the hospital says the law is clear and that Russell only had six months following the surgery to notify the governmental entity that he was planning on suing.

However, Russell’s attorney, Maria Wormington, says he didn’t know he had the object left inside him until he began having problems four years after the surgery. According to Wormington, the surgery to remove the sponge cost her client more than $15,000.

A hearing on GRMC’s motion to dismiss has been set for next Tuesday in Judge Stephen Bristow’s 90th Judicial Court.

Because Graham Regional Medical Center is a county hospital, the maximum amount of liability it could ever incur to an individual is $100,000, Wormington said in an email.

“If it paralyzes a patient for life, the maximum amount it would ever have to pay is $100,000. If it leaves a sponge in a patient during surgery, the maximum amount it would ever have to pay is $100,000.00,” she said.

Also, because GRMC is a county hospital, there is a requirement that a patient provide notice within six months of an incident prior to proceeding with a lawsuit. In this case, it was impossible for Mr. Russell to provide notice within six months of the 2009 surgery as he was unaware that a sponge had been left behind in his body, Wormington said.

Read the entire story in Wednesday's Graham Leader.