Jury chosen for negligence lawsuit against Mayo Clinic

By Janice Gregorson

Joseph Kelsey came to Rochester for surgical repair of an abdominal aneurysm in December 2004.

Days after successful surgery, the Duluth man was dead. An Olmsted County jury now is being asked to decide if Mayo Clinic staff members were negligent during a post-surgery procedure when Kelsey suffered an air embolism resulting in lack of oxygen to the brain.

Paul Schweiger of Duluth, attorney for Kelsey’s widow, Marie, and other family members, says he believes evidence will show they were.


Minneapolis attorney William Stoeri, representing Mayo, says there was no negligence.

The civil trial is expected to last all week in Olmsted District Court, with Judge Mary Leahy presiding. A seven-member jury was selected Monday, and attorneys made opening statements.

Schweiger told jurors about Kelsey, a longtime Duluth resident who came to Rochester for surgical repair of an aneurysm on Dec. 27, 2004. Three days later he turned 81. On Jan. 4, 2005, he was dead.

Kelsey was a 29-year veteran of the Army, served in World War II and served nearly 10 years in Vietnam. He married Marie Kelsey when she was 23 and he was 48. It was his second marriage. He and his first wife had six children.

Schweiger said that after successful surgery, staff members prepared to move Kelsey from the intensive care unit to an intermediate-care room. As part of the process, they needed to change the central venous catheter in the right jugular vein. Schweiger said three doctors were involved: One was a six-month resident; another was there on a fellowship; and the third was the supervising consultant. All three are expected to testify.

Schweiger said that during the line change, Kelsey developed an air embolism. The air entered his heart and deprived him of oxygen to the brain, and he suffered a "significant brain injury" that led to his death. He told jurors that the autopsy shows that Kelsey died from lack of oxygen to the brain caused by the venous air embolism during this central line change. He said there will be testimony stating that doctors failed to take proper safety protections during the procedure, resulting in the air embolism.

Stoeri, however, said that doctors were not negligent, that they followed standard procedure and that everything was going well until Kelsey, saying he couldn’t breathe, sat up, gasped and collapsed. It was when Kelsey sat up suddenly that he took in the air and collapsed, the attorney said. He told jurors there are risks involved in medicine, but that this was not a case where doctors "screwed up."

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