Medical Malpractice Judgment Against OB/GYN Affirmed by Connecticut Supreme Court

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1232803_46767851.jpgThe Connecticut Supreme Court upheld a $4 million jury verdict in favor of a woman who alleged medical malpractice against her OB/GYN. According to the court’s ruling in Downs v. Trias, the plaintiff’s family has a lengthy history of breast cancer on her mother’s side of the family. Her mother, grandmother, and two aunts all died from it. As a preventive measure, the plaintiff had a bilateral mastectomy in 1981, at the age of 22. She had an elective partial hysterectomy in 2005 due to a noncancerous fibroid condition. The defendant performed the 2005 procedure, which involved removing the uterus, but not the ovaries or cervix. He had treated the plaintiff for the previous twenty years.

Prior to the hysterectomy, the defendant informed the plaintiff that her ovaries were healthy, and that her family history of breast cancer, based on the information available, did not indicate a heightened risk of ovarian cancer. He noted that she could choose to have supplemental genetic testing to assess her risk for ovarian cancer, but she did not do so at the time. Roughly one year after the hysterectomy, the plaintiff was diagnosed with terminal ovarian cancer that spread into her abdomen. She maintained that she would not have developed the cancer if her physician had removed her ovaries during the hysterectomy.

Connecticut Supreme Court Rules for Soccer Arena in Premises Liability Case

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1064243_65489603.jpgA woman sued a Connecticut soccer arena for premises liability after her daughter injured her ankle during a game. She claimed that the carpet used on the playing field was inherently dangerous and caused her daughter’s injury. The trial court granted summary judgment for the defendants, and the Appellate Court reversed its ruling. The Connecticut Supreme Court reversed the Appellate Court in DiPietro v. Farmington Sports Arena, et al, reinstating the original summary judgment.

The plaintiff filed suit on behalf of her daughter, Michelle, against the arena, its owner and manager, and the carpet manufacturer. She alleged that Michelle, who was eleven years old at the time, injured her ankle during a soccer game on March 9, 2002. The arena was equipped with carpet, rather than Astroturf, on the playing field. Michelle’s foot reportedly stuck to the carpet, causing her to fall and twist her ankle. She allegedly suffered ongoing difficulties walking, as well as severe pain and emotional distress.

The arena’s owner testified that he had twenty years of experience with indoor soccer. No industry standards governed indoor soccer playing surfaces at the time of Michelle’s injury, and the defendants produced evidence showing that the carpet was widely used by indoor soccer facilities. Plaintiffs conceded that the carpet was properly installed and maintained, and had no physical damage. The plaintiffs’ expert, a professor in the faculty of kinesiology at the University of Calgary, testified that the carpet’s properties produced a high amount of traction, and therefore a greater risk of ankle injury. He admitted to the defense, however, that had no direct experience with indoor soccer and that he knew of no industry standards for playing surfaces.

Teenager Who Suffered Brain Damage from Baseball Injury Settles Lawsuit with Bat Manufacturer for $14.5 Million

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159548_4430.jpgA New Jersey teenager settled a products liability lawsuit this week for $14.5 million. The teen was severely injured during a baseball game, when a ball hit off an aluminum bat struck him in the chest, ultimately causing irreversible brain damage. At issue in the lawsuit was his claim that aluminum bats can cause balls to fly much faster than wooden bats, and that the additional speed is unsafe.

During a June 2006 Police Athletic League baseball game in Wayne, New Jersey, 12 year-old Steven Domalewski was pitching. A batter, using an aluminum bat from about forty-five feet away, hit a line drive that hit Steven in the chest. The ball happened to hit him in the instant between heartbeats, and the impact caused cardiac arrest. Steven fell to the ground, stopped breathing, and lost consciousness. A bystander began to administer CPR, and paramedics arrived within minutes. They tried to give him oxygen on the way to the hospital, but his brain had been deprived of oxygen for fifteen to twenty minutes, causing extensive damage. Steven spent more than eight months in the hospital, and he has required extensive physical therapy and rehabilitation since then. He is now eighteen years old and has reportedly shown some improvement.

Connecticut Driver Charged with Felony Evading After Hitting Motocyclist

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516px-Honda750NR.jpgA woman faces charges of felony evading after she allegedly fled the scene of an accident the afternoon of Tuesday, August 21, 2012. She turned herself in later the same day. The other driver, who was operating a motorcycle, remained in critical but stable condition as of the following day.

According to local news, a four-door sedan traveling west on Barnum Avenue in Stratford, Connecticut struck a motorcycle traveling east at approximately 3:30 p.m. The sedan, described at the time as a silver or white Mazda, fled from the scene. Witnesses described finding the motorcycle in pieces strewn across the road. Police closed the street for the rest of the afternoon while they investigated the scene. The motorcycle operator, a 25 year-old man, was taken to Bridgeport Hospital with serious injuries. The sedan’s driver, a 35 year-old woman, turned herself in to Stratford police on Tuesday night. Police charged her with felony evading, and they have stated that they may add further charges depending on the outcome of their investigation of the crash.

Products Liability and Wrongful Death Claim Against Gun Manufacturer Thrown Out by Appeals Court

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320px-P80_pistole.jpgA wrongful death suit against a gun owner and the gun’s manufacturer has demonstrated the difficulty of pursuing a products liability claim involving a firearm. The Appeals Court of Massachusetts affirmed the trial court’s summary judgment for the defendants in Ryan v. Hughes-Ortiz, 81 Mass. App. Ct. 90 (Mass. App. Ct. 2012), finding that federal statutes bar recovery under the facts and circumstances of the case. The appeals court based its decision on the conduct of the decedent more than any condition of the gun.

Thomas Hughes owned a Glock 9mm Model 17 pistol, which he kept, along with other firearms, in a chest in a locked second-floor bedroom. Hughes testified that he helped Charles Milot reestablish himself after Milot’s release from an eighteen-month prison stay in November 2001. This included paying Milot for odd jobs at his home. Milot’s sister testified that Milot showed her two handguns at a family event in February 2002, which he said he got from Hughes’ house using a key he found. She said Milot agreed to return the guns to where he found them.

On February 25, 2002, Hughes left Milot at his house with instructions for repairs. When he returned, he found Milot’s body in the front doorway, where he was pronounced dead. Police concluded that, while Milot was attempting to return the pistol to its plastic case in the upstairs bedroom, the gun fired, striking Milot in the leg and hitting his femoral artery. Milot made it downstairs and was able to use the telephone before collapsing.

Court Finds Warning Labels on Paint Stripper Comply with Federal Law, Denies Products Liability Claim

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1190912_22327225.jpgAn appeals court in Massachusetts, reviewing a failure-to-warn claim, examined federal regulations governing labels on hazardous products. The court upheld a directed verdict for the defendants in Namundi v. Rocky’s Ace Hardware, LLC, 81 Mass. App. Ct. 665 (Mass. App. Ct. 2012), holding that the warning label on a can of paint stripper complied with the Federal Hazardous Substances Act (FHSA).

The plaintiffs bought a can of “Ace Liquid Stripper” from a hardware store. The label on the front of the can reportedly included, near the bottom, the all-capitalized words “DANGER!” and “POISON!” with a skull-and-crossbones illustration. In slightly smaller all-capitalized letters, the label also included warnings about flammability, the dangers of swallowing the product, vapors, and skin contact. The label directed consumers to more-detailed “HEALTH HAZARD INFORMATION” on the can’s back panel.

The plaintiffs stored the can of stripper in their basement, reportedly near a gas water heater. The heater’s pilot light ignited vapors from the stripper, which caused a flash fire resulting in severe burns to both plaintiffs. They filed suit against the manufacturer and the retailer, alleging that the labels on the can were inadequate, that the can was defective, and that the product was unreasonably dangerous. The trial court granted a directed verdict to the defendants on the question of the warning label, holding that it complied with the requirements of the FHSA, found in 15 U.S.C. § 1261 et seq. and 16 C.F.R. § 1500 et seq. The jury then entered a verdict finding the defendants not liable for any design defect.

FDA Proposes Implementation of Identification System for Medical Devices, Touts Benefits for Patient Safety

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qrcode.7087405.jpgThe U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently published a proposed new rule in the Federal Register that would create an identification system for medical devices distributed within the U.S. The Food and Drug Administration Amendments Act of 2007 directed the FDA to develop rules implementing a Unique Device Identification (UDI) system. The new rule, if approved, would require manufacturers of most medical devices to include UDIs on the devices and their packaging. The system would improve patient safety, the FDA says, by making manufacturing and production information relating to specific devices more readily available to doctors, and allowing manufacturers and the government to identify patterns and trends that indicate the need for a product recall.

Each medical device would have its own UDI, which the FDA describes as a “numeric or alphanumeric code” consisting of two parts. A “device identifier” would describe the specific device and the device model. A “production identifier” would describe the device’s manufacturing history, including its serial number, batch or lot number, and any applicable expiration date. A database, currently still in development by the FDA, would include standard codes used in UDI’s. Much of the database would be accessible to the public. According to the FDA, UDIs will consist solely of product information, and will not include any identifying information about any person using a particular device.

Nurse-Pharmacist Teams Recommended to Review Patients’ Medication Orders and Prevent Errors

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1323011_29945331.jpgWhen patients check into the hospital, they usually provide a medical history, including the medications they are taking at the time of admission. Patients cannot always provide a complete and accurate list of medications for various reasons. This and other factors may result in unintentional discrepancies between the medications a patient was taking prior to hospital admission, the medications they receive during their hospital stay, and the medications they are prescribed upon their discharge. Some of these discrepancies may be harmful, resulting in “adverse drug effects” (ADEs). A study by researchers at Johns Hopkins examined whether specially-trained teams of nurses and pharmacists could review patients’ medication histories to identify discrepancies and prevent ADEs. It concluded that such teams could not only prevent many ADEs, but could do so at a potential cost saving to hospitals and patients.

The study, titled “Nurse-pharmacist collaboration on medication reconciliation prevents potential harm” and published in the May/June issue of the Journal of Hospital Medicine, involved 563 patients who stayed at an urban hospital at various times between January 2008 and March 2009. Doctors conducted interviews with patients to obtain a home medication list (HML), which they used to determine what medications to administer during their hospital stay. Nurses would interview the patients a second time, creating another medication list. The nurses would review electronic records from prior hospital discharges, and sometimes they would contact a patient’s pharmacist, primary care physicians, and family members to obtain additional information on their medications. The lead researcher described this process as “detective work.” The patients could review these second HML’s for accuracy.

Hospital Emergency Departments Can Reduce Errors by Using Interpreters, Study Finds

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For hospital patients who speak limited English, miscommunication between hospital staff and doctors is a serious risk with potentially dire consequences. A misunderstood word or phrase could lead to an incorrect diagnosis or prescription error. A recent study reviewed cases of emergency room visits by patients with limited English proficiency, and concluded that the use of trained interpreters in such situations can dramatically reduce the number of errors.

The researchers, who published their findings in the online edition of the Annals of Emergency Medicine on March 19, 2012, reviewed visits to emergency rooms by patients and families with limited English proficiency. They focused their review on Massachusetts’ two largest pediatric emergency departments, covering a period of thirty months. They identified fifty-seven qualifying emergency room visits within that time period. By reviewing audio recordings of those fifty-seven visits, they identified 1,884 errors in interpretation and determined that eighteen percent of those errors had “potential clinical consequences.”

State Recommends Changes to Staff Training Due to Multiple Choking Deaths in Connecticut Nursing Homes

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120199_1857.jpgA state agency is recommending changes to nursing home staff training procedures after three residents in separate facilities around Connecticut choked to death in a four-month period earlier this year. At least two of the three patients were clients of the state’s Department of Developmental Services (DDS), which advocates for people with developmental disabilities in care facilities. The state fined each of the nursing homes where the choking deaths occurred.

The first incident occurred on February 3, 2012 at Torrington Health and Rehabilitation Center in Torrington. An elderly patient, who required careful monitoring during meals, reportedly choked on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. An investigation by the state Department of Public Health (DPH) concluded that staff members improperly left the resident alone with the sandwich, leading to the resident’s death. Out of a maximum possible fine of $3,000, the state fined the nursing home $510 and ordered it to submit a corrective action plan to DPH.