Articles Posted in Medical Malpractice

In any medical negligence action, almost any type of evidence has the potential to “move the needle” either in your favor or in your opponent’s favor. That’s why it is so important to have diligent and knowledgeable Pennsylvania injury counsel on your side who will know how to fight to get in all of your evidence and keep out as much improper, harmful evidence as possible.hospital

A recent case from Pittsburgh was an example of how this battle over evidence admissibility can make or break a case. The origin of the case was L.M.’s entrance into a Pittsburgh hospital to undergo a hysterectomy. The procedure was a laparoscopic technique, which means that the provider performs the operation through small incisions made in the body. In L.M.’s case, after making one of those incisions, her doctor smelled feces and became concerned that he had perforated her bowel. The doctor ceased doing the hysterectomy and consulted a general surgeon. That surgeon performed surgery on the bowel, which had been cut nearly in half. L.M. was forced to use a colostomy bag for a while after the procedure.

The patient filed a medical negligence action. In L.M.’s trial, that battle over admitting evidence centered on proof related to what the patient knew as far as the complications of a laparoscopic hysterectomy. The defense wanted to present evidence that a “bowel injury” was a risk of the procedure and that L.M. knew this fact. The patient preferred to exclude that evidence, since it might tend to weaken her overall case with the jury.

time costIn many cases of medical misdiagnosis, you may be entitled to pursue compensation based upon a claim that the medical providers who erred (and injured you as a result) were negligent. However, in some more extreme cases, you may be able to pursue other bases for compensation, and those bases may allow you to obtain additional forms of compensation. For example, a case involving more extreme forms of wrongful action or inaction may permit you to pursue a case for recklessness and that may allow you to seek punitive damages in addition to compensatory damages. A knowledgeable Pennsylvania injury attorney can help you to assess your options.

One recent case from the federal courts provided an example of how an injured patient might be entitled to punitive damages. G.G. was a teen attending a summer camp in northeastern Pennsylvania when he became ill. He complained of upset stomach, pain, vomiting and a fever. The camp nurses concluded he had the flu and kept him in the infirmary. Three days later, the camp director took the boy to an “urgent care” facility. Medical providers there immediately sent the boy to a local ER. At the hospital, providers discovered that the boy had a perforated appendix and that appendix problem had caused sepsis. The boy received IV antibiotics for nearly two months before he was well enough to undergo surgery to take out the appendix. The boy reported experiencing abdominal pain for another month after the surgery.

G.G.’s was a case where the parents sought an award of punitive damages. That meant they had to have proof of recklessness. In order to have a valid claim for recklessness, you have to show one of a couple of things. This list includes “evil motive” or reckless disregard. In G.G.’s case, the parents’ evidence of the camp’s failure to address the child’s illness more aggressively was sufficient to persuade the court that they had shown a viable claim that the camp staff was recklessly indifferent to the boy’s illness.

Children's HospitalAnytime anyone decides to pursue an injury case in court, they hope to get a fair trial. Laws and rules of procedure are written to guarantee that the parties will receive a fair trial. This is true of the entire process, including parts that occur before the trial, such as jury selection. If your case was tainted by bias, including within the jury selection process, that may allow you to seek a new trial if your original trial ended in an unfavorable outcome. Whether your case is based on medical malpractice, an auto accident injury, premises liability, or something else, you should retain experienced Pennsylvania injury counsel to make sure that your rights are fully protected in your civil trial.

One recent case from western Pennsylvania was an example of a plaintiff successfully obtaining a new trial. The case involved Mendy’s four-year-old daughter, Jillian, who was in a children’s hospital in Pittsburgh to have reconstructive skull surgery. After the surgery, the hospital placed Jillian in an adult bed in the cardiac intensive care unit. At some point, Jillian fell and landed on her head. This fall allegedly caused two skull fractures and required a second surgery to correct. According to the mother’s lawsuit on behalf of the child, Jillian continued suffering from ongoing behavioral problems after the accident.

The case went to trial, and the jury voted, 10-2, in favor of the hospital. When you encounter a verdict that goes against you, the feeling is probably devastating. You should definitely recognize, though, that you may still have options. Your case may have presented various issues allowing for a successful appeal.

dentistFor many people, trips to the dentist are never fun. That is especially true if you are headed to the dentist’s office to get a root canal procedure. What could be worse than that, you might wonder. Well, one possibility is that your dentist commits malpractice on you while you are undergoing the root canal. While people’s fear of and aversion to dental visits is grist for many jokes, any type of malpractice is the exact opposite of a laughing matter. Whether you have been a victim of malpractice during a dental filling or open-heart surgery or anything in between, you should protect your rights fully and properly by relying on the representation of a skilled Pennsylvania medical malpractice attorney.

Any malpractice case, whether the injuries you suffered as a result were merely painful or were totally life-altering, is serious. If your harm was substantial enough to motivate you to consider taking your provider to court, it is serious enough to retain knowledgeable counsel to handle your case. Medical malpractice actions involve many steps. Some of the most important ones may be involved in the pre-trial process, including the amassing of evidence. Included in that is the retaining of an expert witness (or witnesses). There are many other procedural elements that can trip up the uninformed.

Carol was a dental patient who alleged that she was injured due to her dentist’s malpractice during a root canal. Carol went forward in her case without a lawyer. As the case proceeded, the defense asked the judge to throw out the patient’s certificate of merit. (A certificate of merit is a mandatory filing in a malpractice case in which the injured person or her attorney declares that a professional in the field has concluded that the provider did not meet the required standard of care.)

calendarIn any personal injury or wrongful death case, the law only gives you a limited period of time in which to assert your rights and seek compensation. Wait too long and your opponent is entitled to seek (and obtain) a dismissal of your case. In any type of wrongful death case, then, it is important to act with all due speed. That includes retaining an experienced Pennsylvania wrongful death attorney to provide you with representation in your case.

While the law does limit the amount of time that you have to sue, and it is important to act within that timeframe, it is also important not to let your opponent “start the clock” in your case before it’s time. One recent case that offered useful information about the statute of limitations in wrongful death and survival actions was a tragic story from southeast Pennsylvania.

The specific facts of the case involved allegations of medical/nursing home neglect, but the resolution of the case matters for anyone who might need to bring a lawsuit asserting claims of wrongful death and survival related to medical professional negligence. In the case, Elise was admitted to the hospital in the summer of 2005 after a fall at home. Two weeks later, she was moved to a nursing home. Elise’s doctor ordered a flexor bed and frequent repositioning to deal with her bedsores.

doctorsMedical negligence cases can be complicated when multiple medical providers and numerous mistakes in providing care are involved. When such a scenario occurs, and death is the result, it may require bringing a wrongful death lawsuit that names multiple hospitals, multiple doctors, multiple physicians’ groups, multiple nurses, and others. These providers may be located in various cities (or even multiple states), adding an extra layer of possible complexity. A knowledgeable Pennsylvania wrongful death attorney can help guide you through this potentially complicated process during this most stressful time.

One case in which that scenario took place was the death of 17-month-old Gianna. Gianna’s parents took her to an Allentown hospital in September 2015 when the child was suffering from coughing and vomiting. The doctors at the hospital diagnosed her with a respiratory infection and sent her home. The parents followed up at the pediatrician’s office, where a respiratory infection was again the diagnosis.

Two weeks later, though, the girl wasn’t getting better. The parent took her to the pediatrician and to the hospital. In both instances, the child was sent home without any more tests being performed. On Oct. 4, almost four weeks after the first hospital visit, another chest x-ray was performed, and the child was diagnosed with an enlarged heart. Gianna was flown by helicopter to a hospital in Philadelphia.

doctorWhen someone dies due to the wrongful conduct or wrongful inaction of others, especially when those actors are medical care providers, the law potentially creates two different types of legal claims:  wrongful death and something called “survival.” The wrongful death action, as the name implies, compensates the plaintiff for the premature ending of the deceased person’s life. A survival claim focuses on the conscious pain and suffering the deceased endured in the hours and moments preceding their death. If you’ve lost a loved one due to the errors or omissions made by others, you may have a case for wrongful death, for survival, or for both causes of action. An experienced Pennsylvania wrongful death attorney can help you assess your case.

Any time you lose a loved one due to the mistakes or wrongful inaction of another party, it is excruciatingly painful. That pain is even worse if those responsible were medical care providers. The case surrounding the death of a hospital patient in suburban Philadelphia in 2008 was an example of that. In late November and early December 2008, Marvin was a patient in the ICU. Doctors ordered a feeding tube inserted into Marvin. The first attempt resulted in an improper insertion. The second attempt resulted in the same problem. The tube was inserted into the patient’s lung, rather than his stomach.

Another doctor made a third attempt in the late afternoon of the following day. A radiologist reviewed an x-ray and wrongfully read it as showing the tube ending in the man’s stomach, when it actually terminated in his left lung (again). For eight hours, from 11 pm to 7 am, Marvin received 50 cc’s of nutrition and 420 cc’s of flush through that tube. As the patient got worse, another x-ray was ordered a little before 5 am. The results (showing the tube’s incorrect placement) were not reviewed until 8:13 that morning. Marvin, tragically, had been dead for more than an hour by that time.

Stories of neglect are all too common in nursing homes all across America. Its estimated that 14,000 nursing home residents have died from malnutrition and dehydration alone. In addition, nearly 160,000 residents have had at least one pressure ulcer, yet only 35 percent of those with the most severe ulcers have received special care for their wounds. Personal Injury Trial attorneys, acting on behalf of injured and neglected residents, have obtained agreements from nursing home corporations to greatly improve patient monitoring and care procedures.

In a case involving medical malpractice, the Pennsylvania Superior Court determined whether the trial court abused its discretion by precluding the defendant doctor from offering expert witness testimony in the field of radiology.  At issue was whether the doctor held sufficient qualifications and expertise, beyond what is considered ordinary.

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Dr. Andrew Albert, an anesthesiologist, administered anesthesia to Pauline Abramowich at the Memorial Medical Center in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, while she underwent a scheduled surgery (laparoscopic cholecystectomy). Mr. and Mrs. Abramowich claimed that Dr. Albert negligently intubated Mrs. Abramowich, resulting in a one-centimeter esophageal laceration that required a secondary surgical procedure and further hospitalization and treatment.

The Abramowiches brought this lawsuit against Dr. Albert, and Dr. Albert intended to testify as an expert in anesthesiology. An expert diagnostic radiologist, Dr. Robert Hurwitz, provided testimony relating to diagnostic imaging and its impact on the Abramowiches’ theory of liability.

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In all Pennsylvania personal injury suits, the allegedly at-fault party must owe a duty to the injured person.  If the defendant fails to uphold his or her duty under the law, and an injury results because of the failure, the injured person can receive compensation for the expenses incurred, which include lost wages and medical bills.  If the behavior that led to the accident was particularly egregious, there is the possibility that punitive damages may also be available.  Even if a claim is filed and a civil action started, investigations for personal injury actions are on-going, which may lead to the discovery of other avenues of legal relief or reveal additional damages the injured person may be entitled to receive. 

At-Fault

At-Fault Cases

In Gallo v. Conemaugh Health System, Inc. (2015 PA Super 85), a gentleman sought treatment for a toe that was blackened and odorous.  The patient had previously seen a doctor for the toe and was scheduled for an amputation, but he arrived at the emergency room to see if he could have it amputated earlier.  The original treating physician was not available, so another doctor assumed care and scheduled the amputation the next day.  A separate doctor performed the anesthesia consult and ultimately administered the anesthesia, but he failed to perform a physical examination, cardiac evaluation, pulmonary assessment, chest x-ray, or electrocardiogram test in his pre-surgical evaluation, despite the patient’s medical history of having cardiac and pulmonary medical conditions.  The man died either during surgery or immediately after the amputation from a heart attack. 

The administratrix of the patient’s estate filed a wrongful death and survival action against the hospital, the physician’s group, and the individual doctors involved in the man’s surgery.  The administratrix alleged that the anesthesiologist, who had previously obtained eight DUIs from several states and lost his medical license in another state, was impaired by alcohol.  During the initial phases of litigation, the administratrix filed a Motion to Compel specific responses to questions regarding his alcohol treatment.  The trial judge allowed the request to compel, reasoning that the doctor had waived his privilege by denying the allegations of impairment as a result of alcohol use.  The doctor appealed, countering that he was not required to disclose that information under federal and Pennsylvania law.

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