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.
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.