Articles Posted in Medical Malpractice

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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In Pennsylvania, when parties enter into an agreement with one another, part of that agreement may include a requirement to arbitrate a claim in lieu of filing a lawsuit through the Commonwealth’s court system.  Arbitration operates similarly to the judicial system, with an arbitrator deciding the case rather than an elected judge or jury.  Agreements that require submission of claims to an arbitrator are governed by the Pennsylvania Uniform Arbitration Act.  If an agreement defers to arbitration rather than the civil justice system, the damages that can be recovered by an injured party can potentially be smaller than what they would have been if a civil action was filed.

Wrongful Death Lawyers

Wrongful Death Lawyers

The Superior Court recently considered an appeal by a healthcare entity that objected to the trial court’s refusal to send a set of wrongful death and survival claims to arbitration.  The civil suit originated from the injuries and ultimate death of a woman who lived in special housing that included non-acute medical care.  The woman, while living at this residence, needed hospitalization after becoming unresponsive. Seven months later, she broke her hip and needed surgery at a different medical center.  While the woman was hospitalized, a skin tear and redness were noticed on her tail bone, but no pressure ulcer.

The woman was then moved to a different nursing facility under the same company that owned her original residence.  At this point, three pressure ulcers , or bed sores, were noticed, and in a week the woman gained 15 pounds from the added fluid and began experiencing cardiac issues.  The pressure ulcer began to increase in size and was filled with infected fluid that needed to be drained.  By the next month, the wound was extremely infected, and the woman had pitting edema in her legs.  The woman was transferred twice after that to be treated for the wound, but she eventually died in hospice care. 

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Experienced litigators are crucial in order to effectively try a personal injury lawsuit. The majority of suits do not go to trial and are often settled before the trial date is reached. However, for those that do go to trial, knowledge of the law and what’s permitted by the civil rules of procedure is essential to obtaining a favorable verdict. Personal injury defendants’ main goal is to eliminate or minimize liability to the injured party, and they will attempt everything in order to avoid paying damages that the injured party is awarded.

Birth Defect and Personal InjuryIn the medical malpractice case of Deeds v. Univ. of Penn. Medical Center, the trial judge allowed the attorney for the defendant to tell the jury that the plaintiff’s injuries are being adequately cared for because she qualified for government benefits. The child’s mother twice sought emergency medical care during her pregnancy from the same hospital. The first visit was for back and abdominal pain, and the second visit was for headaches, uterine contractions, and blurred vision. The medical records show that she had a physically small placenta and a history of sickle cell disease and physical trauma. Two days after the second visit, the mother delivered the child through an emergency cesarean section.

The attorney for the child appealed after the jury found for the defendants. The Superior Court of Pennsylvania acknowledged that the standard of review when considering a new trial is to uphold the decision of the trial court unless a clear abuse of discretion occurred. The Court found that the trial court did abuse its discretion by permitting the attorney for one of the defendants to talk about the availability of payments from another source. Continue reading

While asbestos is no longer used as popular insulating material, its presence in Pennsylvania and across America is still felt.  A once-popular mineral used for its sound absorption, strength, and resistance to fire, it is now synonymous with serious and fatal illnesses, including asbestosis and mesothelioma.  The fibrous make-up of the substance makes it impossible to escape the lungs once it is inhaled, and it can take decades to reveal itself.  119041_7784Since it is a highly dangerous material, Pennsylvania’s Department of Labor and Industry lists the regulations in place for asbestos removal.

Litigation for claims and damages have stretched over several decades as new cases of cancer and illness fall upon the exposed individuals.  As a result, special funds have been created and specific litigation procedures made in an attempt to compensate those who have suffered injury or death as a result of asbestos exposure.  The Superior Court of Pennsylvania recently published Krauss v. Trane US Inc., regarding some of these asbestos-specific legal procedures.

The deceased bricklayer worked at many job sites throughout the Southeast United States.  His estate claimed that he was exposed to asbestos at many job sites by interacting with several products that contained asbestos.  The estate attributed the mesothelioma to the asbestos that landed on his clothes and hair and that was eventually breathed into his lungs.  Several of these companies were made a party to the suit.  Motions for summary judgment were made by all the defendant companies, which were granted by the lower court.  Continue reading

To successfully pursue and recover compensation in different types of Pennsylvania personal injury cases, a unique legal strategy must be considered and used for each case.  Some cases, like car accidents, rely on photos of the damage and physical injury, and they benefit from witness statements taken close to the time of the accident.  Other cases, like medical malpractice actions, depend more on expert witness testimony to help fact-finders understand the injury and what type of care was or will be necessary for the injured person.  Medical Malpractice Laywers Scranton PAAll personal injury cases benefit from thorough investigations and experienced counsel, who understand what facts are significant and what can maximize recovery.

The Superior Court of Pennsylvania issued a decision in Pomroy v. Hosp. of the Univ. of Pennsylvania, that discusses the type of proof necessary in a medical malpractice action for a deceased patient with a long history of gastrointestinal health problems.  The patient used the same doctor for a long time and informed her that she suffered from a large, possibly cancerous polyp in her colon.  Different treatment options were discussed with the patient, since there was concern about the size of the polyp and the high possibility of the perforation of her bowel if it were removed during a colonoscopy.  The testimony shows that he explained the colonoscopy procedure would inject saline between the walls of the colon, which would increase the risk of perforation, but he did not explain the exact risk of perforation.  Even though the polyp was not cancerous, her treating physician recommended surgery due to its size and referred her to a surgeon.  Continue reading