By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Although Godat and Abraham refused interview requests, their attorneys adamantly deny their clients were negligent and maintain what happened to Springs was simply an unavoidable risk of surgery.
"This was just one of those sad, unforeseen cases where the 1 percent risk in surgeries makes itself present," Abraham's attorney Bill Chamblee says. "While I agree that Mr. Springs would be alive today had he not had the surgery, there are some questions we want answered that are simply unanswerable."
Says Weisbrod, "The defendants want to drag this thing out because it will become a lot less expensive for all their insurance companies if Ron just passes away. Well, guess what? Ron Springs isn't going to die. He's fighting, and we're going to fight for him."
"This whole thing was handled with a reckless and heedless disregard for a human life."
—Adriane Springs' attorney, Les Weisbrod
While Godat and Abraham were chance partners on the day of Springs' surgery, Walls and Springs were not only teammates, but Plano neighbors, best friends, godfathers to each other's children and perfectly compatible type-O blood brothers.
Shame it's headed ghastly, because the Walls-Springs relationship was mostly goose-bumpy.
Walls, a free-agent cornerback raised in Dallas' Hamilton Park neighborhood but schooled at Richardson's Berkner High School, and Springs, a pass-catching running back out of Ohio State, became friends playing for the Cowboys in the early '80s. They each had their successes, with Walls leading the NFL in interceptions three times and Springs leading the Cowboys in touchdowns (12) in '81 and receptions (73) in '83. After both retired, Springs in 1990 was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, a disease that forced the amputation of his lower right leg, withered his hands and ransacked his kidneys into dialysis three times a week. When Walls rescued him (no one in Springs' family was a suitable match) off a four-year wait on the national transplant list, it made ESPN SportsCenter and was prominently featured during CBS' coverage of Super Bowl XLI in 2007.
Walls was a hero; Springs a celebrity.
"It's bittersweet," Walls admits. "When I look back at all the tapes from those moments—magical moments—there we are, standing up in front of the big Medical City banners. Now Ron's back in there."
The successful transplant surgery drastically improved Springs' quality of life. He got off dialysis. His ashen skin flushed back normal. He began physical therapy to improve his posture, regain use of his hands and eventually leave his wheelchair with a prosthetic leg.
The two christened their own Gift for Life charitable foundation, began public speaking on the benefits of organ donation and on September 9, 2007, were honored as Cowboys co-captains at the season-opening game against the New York Giants at Texas Stadium.
"I thank all the people in Dallas and around the country for their prayers," Springs told the sellout crowd that night. "They don't have to worry about Ron Springs giving up."
They did, turns out, have to worry about Ron Springs waking up.
"I don't hope he's alive in there, I know he's alive. If he hears a voice, he sort of cocks his head, and if I drop something, he jumps. He's in there."
—Ron Springs' wife, Adriane
Adriane Springs learned quickly about Les Weisbrod's ferocity in medical malpractice cases. A highly successful Dallas attorney and the immediate past president of the American Association for Justice, the national organization for trial lawyers, "Les is the kind of lawyer who makes the other side so uncomfortable, they often pay him any amount of money just to make the pain go away," veteran Dallas trial lawyer Randy Johnston says.
Through pretrial discovery, Weisbrod learned that Dr. David Godat, the middle of three brothers, attended Stanford University and then dropped out of Baylor Medical School in Dallas before graduating from UT Southwestern-Dallas and serving a six-year residency in plastic surgery at Milwaukee's Greater Memorial Hospital. Back in Dallas he opened an office next to brother, Mark, at Medical City, and in 2006 endured a bitter divorce from wife, Monica.
Weisbrod secured the November 20, 2006, divorce deposition of Godat's ex-wife, Dr. Monica Godat, in which she testified that her husband was "a recovering alcoholic" who had on "multiple occasions" physically abused her, though she never reported the incidents to anyone other than her therapist. She further stated that during Godat's plastic surgery residency at Milwaukee's Greater Memorial Hospital, he was disciplined by his superiors by being placed on probation "three or four times" and was asked to see a psychiatrist as part of that probation. Her seven-year marriage ended, she said, when she witnessed him "making out" with one of his office staff.
Godat's counsel contends that these kinds of character issues are totally irrelevant to the question of negligence. "Dr. Godat does not have a drinking problem," his attorney, Charlie Bell, says. "He did go through a contentious divorce, but none of this has anything to do with the Ron Springs case whatsoever."
But Weisbrod counters that Godat's "underlying issues prevented him from properly communicating with his health care team. Furthermore, he should have been there in the operating room to stop Dr. Abraham from doing what she did to Mr. Springs."