St. Joseph's Hospital in St. Paul has been ordered to pay $225,000 to the family of an obese man who died after falling off a hospital table that the family argued was too small for him.

Max DeVries, 61, was sedated and awaiting routine surgery after he had a stroke, when he rolled off a table attached to an X-ray machine. He hit his head where doctors had earlier removed part of his skull because of brain swelling from the stroke.

The family sued, contending that the hospital lacked appropriate facilities and equipment, including wide tables and adequate restraints for DeVries, who stood 5-foot-5 and weighed about 300 pounds.

The incident highlighted the dilemma faced by hospitals as Americans grow larger and heavier, but St. Joseph's insisted Tuesday that it was not at fault in the patient's death.

"The medical evidence definitively proved there was no relationship between the fall and the patient's later stroke or his death," said Sara Criger, St. Joseph's CEO.

"We continue to extend our sympathies to the family of Max DeVries for their loss," she said in a statement. "The fact that there was a fall from a procedure table is a troubling event, and we are sorry the fall occurred."

After the fall, on March 8, 2010, DeVries' condition deteriorated and he became comatose. He died on April 13 after his feeding tube was removed. The hospital argued during the four-day trial that DeVries' deterioration resulted from a subsequent stroke, about March 20.

Ramsey County District Judge Gregg Johnson determined that the hospital was responsible for the fall. DeVries had been strapped onto the table, but the straps apparently gave way while a nurse was away answering a telephone call.

The seven-person jury decided that the fall caused DeVries' death and set damages at $225,000, awarded to his two children, Darren and Shawn DeVries.

The St. Paul resident had been a metal shop quality control engineer before his first massive stroke, and it was doubtful that he could have returned to work, said the family's attorney, Robert Hajek.

Warren Wolfe • 612-673-7253