Medical Defendants Unable to Force Parents to Litigate Wrongful Death Case in Allentown as Opposed to Philadelphia
Medical 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.
At the Philadelphia hospital, doctors performed a cardiac procedure. As part of the procedure, Gianna received a sedative. While the drug the girl received was the correct one, the dosage was 10 times what she should have received. She died eight days later.
In Gianna’s parents’ case, the list of defendants the parents sued for the girl’s wrongful death included three hospitals, six doctors, and two physician’s assistants, among others. The parents brought their lawsuit in Philadelphia County.
One of the Allentown-based sets of defendants argued to the judge in Philadelphia that the case should go forward in Lehigh County on the basis of a legal concept known as forum non conveniens. That argument essentially means that the court the plaintiff chose was too inconvenient, and the case against those defendants should be heard elsewhere.
Chances are, you and your legal counsel have chosen the court where you filed very carefully and intentionally. In weighing, for example, whether to sue in Philadelphia or Allentown, perhaps you concluded that a jury in the county you chose would give your case a fairer hearing. Regardless of the reason, the law generally will not uproot your case unless the other side shows that some special circumstances existed. For instance, even if both you and some of the people and entities you’ve sued are from Allentown, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are entitled to move your case from Philadelphia to Allentown on the basis of a forum non conveniens argument.
The Superior Court sided with Gianna’s parents and reversed a lower court that had granted the request to move the case to Lehigh County. The court explained that, in order to win such a motion, the party seeking to move the case must show that not moving would be “oppressive.” While forcing the Allentown-based medical personnel to be in Philadelphia for several weeks would be a notable hardship for them and their patients, it would be just as much of a hardship for the Philadelphia-based providers to be away from their patients to attend a trial in Allentown. In light of that, the Allentown medical providers’ argument fell short.
There are many things you have to consider in your wrongful death or survival action. The areas that may be contested could be anything, up to and including where the case will be tried. Especially during this emotionally difficult time, you need representation that can deal with the legal issues effectively on your behalf. The skilled Pennsylvania wrongful death attorneys at Needle Law Firm have been providing diligent representation and compassionate, personalized attention to our clients for many years and are here to help you.
Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation by calling (570) 344-1266.