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SHEEHAN HELD LIABLE FOR $1.4 MILLION

A jury found a local hospital liable Tuesday for $1.4 million for the pain suffered and medical expenses incurred by the former co-owner of Heidi's Tuxedos because the hospital mistreated a foot problem, leading to amputation.

Patricia A. Kneiss, 52, was found by a jury to be entitled to a total of $7 million following a weeklong trial before State Supreme Court Justice Nelson H. Cosgrove.

But because of prior settlements with doctors and a local real estate investor, Sheehan Memorial Hospital is only liable for 20 percent of the jury award, according to David C. Quinn, attorney for Mrs. Kneiss and her husband, Gary.

Quinn said mistreatment at Sheehan led to the amputation of Mrs. Kneiss' left leg below the knee at the Cleveland Clinic in November 1990.

While the Kneisses, now of Sharp's Chapel, Tenn., were living in an East Amherst rental home, Mrs. Kneiss fell through the rear deck flooring and aggravated a left heel spur injury on Aug. 17, 1987.

In March 1989, she had surgery at Sheehan, but suffered an infection and returned to the hospital that June for a week. The Sheehan staff failed to diagnose her problem, which turned into a spreading infection, Quinn said.

Though Mrs. Kneiss has a left leg prosthesis, she cannot walk much and uses a wheelchair.

Last October, an earlier jury in a malpractice trial before Cosgrove found Sheehan Memorial 20 percent liable for Mrs. Kneiss' medical condition, but refused to award damages for her pain and suffering.

Cosgrove overturned that portion of the verdict and last week the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court upheld his ruling. That moved the case to trial again solely on the hospital's financial obligations, Quinn said.

Earlier the Kneisses, who sold Heidi's in 1994, reached pretrial settlements totaling $1.3 million with carriers for doctors who mistreated her and the real estate investor who owned the East Amherst home, leaving the partially insured hospital standing trial alone.

Court officials said attorneys for Sheehan Memorial, which has a $1 million insurance policy, are considering an appeal of the latest verdict.

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