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Johnson Co. jury awards $2.88 million to family for son’s suffering, wrongful death in malpractice case

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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.

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  • Carrie

    The point is, the doctor didnt look for an underlying reason for the pain, in this case, an infection, before just giving injections of pain medication. Which takes care of symptoms but covers up the underlying issue. Therefore the doctor was negligent. Blaming the victim is what doctors do, It would make them less than God’s in the medical field and they wont allow for that. Not to mention the lawyers they have to pay for and all that malpractice insurance they pay for to get out of paying for their mistakes.

  • Carol Foster

    I have seen this doctor and he damaged my nerve in my neck with the steroid injection. I now have severe pain and total numbness down my left arm including my left hand. He would do nothing about it. I wanted to pursue a lawsuit but cannot find a doctor to say the steroid injection needle hit my nerve and damaged it and caused more severe pain. This has been almost a year now and can barely feel my arm and hand at different times. Does anyone know a lawyer who would handle a lawsuit against this pain clinic again??

  • kari

    I have been dealing with this issue since 2009 and they just keep telling me it’s in my head I have had several steroid injections with no help now I can’t walk sit or Stand for more than 20 minutes at a time

  • Katie

    Really guys? Dr. Eubanks is my step dad, and you are all crazy. Really Carol? Nice timing. If you all knew the truth, you would know that the jurors said that the family’s lawyers really didn’t prove their point, but they did feel sympathy for the family. Did you guys know that an international known Doctor, Dr. Richard Rauck reviewed the case and under oath, said the care Dr. Eubanks gave was appropriate. Did you crazies know that the day before he received an injection, his physical therapy saw him and said there was NO bump, lump or anything. Get your facts straight. Now is not the time to “play victim”.

    • sherry

      I don’t care if Dr. Eubanks is your step dad, he was negligent in his care of Joel. And for Joel to be injected a second time after his Dad was there with Joel questioning the doctor if there should be a concern about a second injection when there was a visibly red spot present where that second injection was given was wrong. How would you feel if Joel was your brother? Doctors attorneys can ALWAYS find some other “internationally Known” doctor to say that their client did nothing wrong. Give me a break!!! Joel’s parents are my friends.

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