BARTOW – Wednesday, September 11, 2013 | A Polk County jury has found a cardiologist negligent in the death of a 19-year-old Haines City woman and returned a verdict of more than $1 million in damages.
Dione Mae Allen died in 2007 after seeking treatment at Heart of Florida Hospital in Haines City.
Allen, a graduate of Haines City High School, had been a lifeguard at an Orlando resort until she began having joint pain. She was diagnosed with adult-onset Still’s disease – a form of arthritis.
She started working as a reservations agent for the resort.
She was admitted to the hospital Aug. 18, 2007, for fever, dizziness and other symptoms. She died the next day.
A lawsuit filed in 2009 by Allen’s mother, Mary Kraning of Haines City, accused Dr. Johnson Massey of overdosing Allen with potassium.
Kraning’s Winter Haven lawyer, M. Lance Holden, argued Massey was using old test results when he erroneously thought Allen needed potassium to correct an electrolyte imbalance.
“Her potassium level had risen well within the normal range,” Holden told The Ledger.
Potassium can be fatal at high levels, and potassium is the same substance used to conduct execution by lethal injection, he said.
A trial began in late August at the Polk County Courthouse in Bartow.
The jury deliberated more than nine hours late into the night Sept. 4 before finding Massey negligent.
It awarded Allen’s mother $1 million in damages for pain and suffering as well as $6,754 in funeral expenses.
Holden said his client is impressed that the jury put in such hard work to reach a unanimous decision.
“She was so thankful to have her day in court for her only daughter,” Holden said.
Massey is listed as a Kissimmee cardiologist with an active license clear of any discipline, according to online records from the Florida Department of Health.
His lawyer, Eugene L. Ciotoli of North Palm Beach, could not be reached for comment.