After more than three hours of deliberation, an Ellis County jury awarded more than $7.6 million to the parents of Avery Washington.
Washington was 13 years old when she took her own life after being prescribed Celexa for depression.
The jury found Dr. Jose Salguero and physician's assistant Jenelle Robinson negligent in the care they provided to Washington. Nurse practitioner Allyn Kawalek was found not negligent.
Jason Webster, attorney for Avery’s father Brad Washington, told the jury the staff at Pediatric Cool Care was reckless in the treatment they provided to Avery. He noted Celexa is considered to be a "Black Box" drug by Federal Food and Drug Administration, which requires constant monitoring of the patient.
“Salguero is the head of the ship. He told you that they missed the red flags and failed to diagnose the depression adequately,” Webster said. “He didn’t monitor his staff and allowed them to fill prescriptions.”
Webster stated medical staff did not give warnings about side effects to the family. Medical records were also changed to reflect a higher level of care.
“Salguero had a meeting and told his staff if there was not anything in the chart to go and fix it,” Webster said. “This is not what a trusted member of your community should be doing.”
Following Webster, Ed Quillin — attorney for Salguero, Robinson and Kawalek — addressed the jury.
Serafin stated staff members worked with the family and provided them with information about the drug’s side effects. He noted Avery’s mother, Ginger Thompson, had first-hand knowledge about depression.
"Avery’s mom was a medic, and she knew the kinds of questions she needed to ask. She knows the difference between a 13-year-old girl being moody and someone that needs to be taken to the doctor,” Quillin said. “Ginger herself had suffered from depression and knew the difference.”
Quillin directed the jury to Thompson’s deposition where she testified she had watched her daughter's demeanor and mood. He added Avery’s death, while tragic, was unforeseen and that no one could have prevented.
Webster, in a rebuttal argument, stated Thompson was a vigilant mother who sought help for her daughter several times. He noted the clinic staff has several chances to prevent Avery’s death through a correct diagnosis or by just asking questions.
After the verdict was returned, Quillin stated he is looking at other legal options for his clients.
“I respect the jury decision, but I am disappointed with the outcome,” Quillin said. “We are going to be exploring our options and what direction to take. We are likely going to appeal this decision.”
Webster stated the jury saw the facts in the case and the verdict reflects it.
“This verdict signifies that you don’t just blindly trust your doctor. You check their credentials, you see how they treat you, you ask questions, and you try to seek treatment," Webster noted. "You don’t just go to someone that prescribes you medication and kicks you out the door.”
Brad stated it had been a painful process reliving these moments.
“We have been seeking this justice for a long time. It is some closure but is a whole lot to swallow all at one time,” Brad said. “It means that justice was served and we can trust in the law to take care of us.”
Brad stated that Avery would be happy that someone recognized what was going on with her.
The hearing to enter the judgment in the case is set for 1:30 p.m. on June 15 in the 40th Judicial District Court of Ellis County.