Doctor cleared in LPGA golfer wrongful death case

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Doctor cleared in LPGA golfer wrongful death case
Erica Blasberg, a professional golfer, committed suicide in 2010. Thomas Hess, a physician who was treating her prior to her death, is accused of having an inappropriate relationship with her and failing to provide proper medical care in a lawsuit brought by her parents.
A portrait of LPGA golfer Erica Blasberg is displayed at her memorial service at Eagle Glen Golf Club in Corona, Calif., Wednesday, May 19, 2010. Blasberg, whose sudden death last week is still under investigation, was remembered Wednesday as a talented athlete and caring person during a public memorial in her hometown. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)
FILE - This Aug. 24, 2010 file photo provided by the Henderson, Nev., Police Department shows Dr. Thomas Hess. Jury selection is entering a third day in Las Vegas Wednesday, May 7, 2014, in a civil wrongful death and medical malpractice lawsuit against Hess, a Nevada physician who found the body of women’s professional golfer Erica Blasberg after she committed suicide in May 2010. Hess pleaded guilty in late 2010 to a misdemeanor obstruction charge for removing a suicide note and prescription medications from Blasberg's home in Henderson before police arrived to investigate her death. Blasberg’s father, Mel Blasberg, accuses the 46-year-old Hess of having an inappropriate personal relationship with the 25-year-old golf professional, and of failing to provide proper medical care before she died. (AP Photo/Henderson Police Department, File)
Mel Blasberg, right, hugs an unidentified mourner outside of a memorial service for his daughter LPGA golfer Erica Blasberg at Eagle Glen Golf Club in Corona, Calif., Wednesday, May 19, 2010. Blasberg, whose sudden death last week is still under investigation, was remembered Wednesday as a talented athlete and caring person during a public memorial in her hometown. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)
MOBILE, AL - MAY 13: Mi Hyun Kim of South Korea walks down the 11th fairway during first round play in Bell Micro LPGA Classic at the Magnolia Grove Golf Course on May 13, 2010 in Mobile, Alabama. Kim and other players are wearing a purple ribbon in rememberence of LPGA player Erica Blasberg who died earlier this week. (Photo by Dave Martin/Getty Images)
KAHUKU, HI - FEBRUARY 12: Erica Blasberg hits her tee shot on the 3rd hole during the first round of the SBS Open on February 12, 2009 at the Turtle Bay Resort in Kahuku, Hawaii. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
MOBILE, AL - SEPTEMBER 12: Erica Blasberg watches her approach shot on the 7th fairway during second round play in the Bell Micro LPGA Classic at Magnolia Grove Golf Course on September 12, 2008 in Mobile, Alabama. (Photo by Dave Martin/Getty Images)
MOBILE, AL - SEPTEMBER 12: Erica Blasberg pulls a club from her bag on the 7th fairway during second round play in the Bell Micro LPGA Classic at Magnolia Grove Golf Course on September 12, 2008 in Mobile, Alabama. (Photo by Dave Martin/Getty Images)
SPRINGFIELD, IL - JULY 19: Erica Blasberg watches her drive on the eighth hole during the third round of the State Farm Classic at Panther Creek Country Club on July 19, 2008 in Springfield, Illinois. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
CORNING, NY - MAY 25: Erica Blasberg hits her tee shot on the seventh hole during the final round of the LPGA Corning Classic at Corning Country Club on May 25, 2008 in Corning, New York. (Photo by Kyle Auclair/Getty Images)
KAPOLEI, HI - FEBRUARY 21: Erica Blasberg and her caddie line up a putt on the 9th hole during the first round of the Fields Open on February 21, 2008 at the Ko Olina Golf Club in Kapolei, Hawaii. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
SPRINGFIELD, IL - SEPTEMBER 2: Erica Blasberg walks to the 11th green during the final round of the State Farm Classic at Panther Creek Country Club on September 2, 2007 in Springfield, Illinois. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
SINGAPORE - DECEMBER 10: International team player Erica Blasberg (L) is congratulated by Janice Moodie after she sunk an eagle on the 18th hole during the four-ball matches against Jennifer Rosales and Namika Omata of the Asia team at the 2005 Lexus Cup on December 10, 2005 at the Tanah Merah Country Club in Singapore. ( Photo by Stanley Chou/Getty Images)
Paula Creamer and Erica Blasberg enjoy the closing ceremony of the Curtis Cup at the Formby Golf Club. June 13, 2004 (Photo by Pete Fontaine/WireImage)
FORMBY, ENGLAND - JUNE 13: The winning USA team, (front row, kneeling) Liz Janangelo and Jane Park (back row) Annie Thurman, Sarah Huarte, Michelle Wie, Captain Martha Kirouac, Paula Creamer, Brittany Lang and Erica Blasberg hold The Curtis Cup trophy at the 2004 Curtis Cup Matches at Formby Golf Club on June 13, 2004 in Formby, England. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
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LAS VEGAS (AP) -- A jury in Nevada cleared a Las Vegas physician Tuesday in a wrongful death and medical malpractice lawsuit stemming from the May 2010 suicide of LPGA golfer Erica Blasberg.

Jurors who heard five days of civil trial testimony deliberated less than an hour before finding Dr. Thomas Hess had no liability in the death of a woman who according to testimony harbored deep feelings of unhappiness even as she became a college golf star and a photogenic rising talent on the women's pro tour.

Hess, who testified earlier Tuesday that he had a "flirty" relationship with Blasberg, wasn't in the courtroom when the jury finding was read. He has maintained that he and Blasberg were friends, but didn't have a romantic relationship.

Hess' attorney, Kim Irene Mandelbaum, declined immediate comment after the jury finding was read in Clark County District Court.

Earlier, Mandelbaum urged the jury of four men and four women to remember that Blasberg's suicide letter said not to blame anyone.

Blasberg's parents, Mel and Debra Blasberg, who are divorced and live in Southern California, said they were disappointed in the finding but glad to have aired their concerns in court.

They accused Hess, now 46, who was married at the time, of pursuing a romantic relationship with their 25-year-old daughter - and of putting that interest ahead of her medical needs.

"We had a doctor much older than my daughter, who got involved with my daughter, and he crossed the line, and it affected my daughter," Mel Blasberg told reporters. "That's why we came here, not for money, but to let the world know there was more to what happened than Erica committing suicide."

"The court feels that, for whatever reason, he doesn't have the legal liability," Blasberg said.

Hess, a family practice doctor, pleaded guilty in December 2010 to a misdemeanor obstruction charge for removing the suicide note and some medications after finding Blasberg dead in bed at her Henderson home.

He said he removed the items to spare the Blasberg family, whom he had never met, anguish following Blasberg's death.

Hess didn't know Erica Blasberg had been seeing a psychiatrist for depression, his lawyer said, and he didn't prescribe the many medications that Blasberg took before going to bed with a dust mask over her mouth and a plastic bag over her head, secured by rubber bands.

The Clark County coroner determined that Blasberg committed suicide by asphyxiation, with a toxic combination of medications in her system.

Her suicide note said the prescription medications had been accumulated over time, and "I blame no one no one for the drugs I take this evening."

Blasberg was from Corona, California, where she was coached by her father before becoming an All-American in 2003 and 2004 at the University of Arizona. Her best year as a professional was 2008, when she tied for eighth at the SBS Open in Hawaii and earned more than $113,000 in winnings, according to the LPGA.
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