Mistrial declared in suicide case against Champion doctors
By Ed Runyan
The wrongful-death trial involving two Champion Township physicians and a military veteran who committed suicide while under their care was declared a mistrial Friday, as the jurors reported being “hopelessly deadlocked.”
Atty. Brian Kopp, who argued the case for the family of Michael Ecker, said afterward it is too soon to decide whether they will seek a second trial.
“We’ll look at all our options, but we need to take a break” before deciding, he said.
One juror said she and the seven others were split 4-4, and none seemed to be willing to change his position on whether father and son doctors Frank and Zachary Veres of Champion were negligent in their treatment of Ecker, 25, who killed himself in August 2009, 11 days after his last doctor visit.
Kopp argued that the doctors failed to adequately address Ecker’s mental-health issues by failing to find out about the medical care he received before coming to them and by failing to use a written mental-health test filled out by the patient.
The jurors began their deliberations Thursday after closing arguments and continued them until about 3 p.m., at which point they indicated they could not reach a verdict.
A verdict would have required six of eight to agree.
The juror said she found it difficult to understand how two of the jurors could say that the standard of care the doctors provided to Ecker was OK.
“Some people have low expectations of medical care,” she said.
Ecker had been diagnosed with post-traumatic-stress disorder, severe depression and a traumatic brain injury by doctors at the Veterans Affairs facility that treated him before he went to the Champion physicians.
Ecker left the VA because he was frustrated with them, witnesses said.
The Vereses, who treated him from January 2009 to August 2009, asked Ecker to provide them with the VA records, but they never got them.
The chart for Ecker at the Vereses’ Mahoning Avenue offices made no mention of him having post-traumatic-stress, a traumatic-brain injury or severe depression until after he died, Kopp said.