Connecticut Hospital Ordered to Pay Medical Malpractice Victim $12 Million

Surgical ErrorDanbury Hospital has been ordered to pay $12 million to the victim of a botched surgery which occurred in 2008, according to recent reports. The patient, 65-year old Vivian Gagliano, was undergoing a routine hernia operation when the surgeon performing the procedure punctured her colon, causing her to go into a coma and eventually requiring the removal of most of her large intestine.

In 2010, Gagliano filed suit against the hospital and two of its doctors, alleging that they failed to recognize the damage they’d done until after closing the surgical area, causing Gagliano to suffer infection and septic shock which endangered her life and led to the drastic step of organ removal. The jurors took only 3 ½ hours to deliberate before finding in favor of the plaintiff.

At the Law Offices of Paul Levin, we know how difficult it can be to recover from the effects of medical malpractice. Therefore, we make it our mission to help malpractice victims fight for justice. Contact our offices at 860-560-5302 to learn more about how we can help you if you have been the victim of a medical professional’s mistake.

Florida Court Reverses Medical Malpractice Caps

Medical MalpracticeFlorida’s Supreme Court recently issued a ruling overturning a state law imposing caps on the amount that medical malpractice victims’ families can recover for non-compensatory damages following the wrongful death of a loved one. While limited in nature, the ruling is part of a broader trend against caps for non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases across the country.

The Florida Supreme Court’s decision rests on a number of different issues that are shared in common by medical malpractice caps throughout the country. For one, the cap unfairly burdened families in which multiple individuals may have suffered losses because it effectively created a system in which a single plaintiff’s recovery for non-economic damages would necessarily be greater than situations in which multiple plaintiffs were involved.

Perhaps more importantly, however, the Court noted that in spite of promises to the contrary, the state’s cap on medical malpractice damages appeared to do little to check the increasing cost of medical malpractice premiums for doctors, with insurers instead largely pocketing the benefits for themselves. This finding is what has largely opened up a larger national debate on the validity and effectiveness of these measures.

At the Law Offices of Paul Levin, we understand how hard it can be to deal with the loss of a loved one as a result of medical malpractice or any other cause, and we are committed to helping families in this difficult situation. Contact us today at 860-322-5302 to learn more about what we can do to get you the help you need.

Medical Malpractice Suit Examines Liability of Robotic Medical Device Manufacturers for Malfunctions

Laproscopic_Surgery_Robot.jpgOur laws place obligations on doctors that correspond with the tremendous amount of trust we place on them. As medical technology advances, however, newer medical devices may exceed the skills that most doctors have worked for years to develop. These devices may offer cost-saving, or even life-saving, benefits to patients, but the full implications of a surgical device that the surgeon may not fully understand remain unknown. A lawsuit is seeking to hold the manufacturer of a robotic surgical device liable for injuries caused by complications during a procedure.

A Washington woman is suing Intuitive Surgical, Inc., the nation’s leading robotic surgical system provider, for injuries sustained by her husband during a prostatectomy in 2008. Estate of Fred E. Taylor v. Intuitive Surgical, No. 09-2-03136-5 (Wash. Super. Ct., Kitsap Co.) The surgeon used robotic surgical equipment called the da Vinci Surgical System. Alleged malfunctions in the system reportedly caused the ordinarily five-hour procedure to take over thirteen hours. According to the New York Times, the 67 year-old patient suffered a stroke, sepsis, and damage to his kidneys and lungs as a result. He survived the procedure but died in 2012. A judge ruled on March 26, 2013 that the case may proceed under state products liability law.

Intuitive claims that nearly 1,400 hospitals around the country have purchased the da Vinci system, which they say can perform various surgical procedures less invasively, with less pain and fewer complications for patients. The surgeon uses the system by operating controls at a console and viewing the procedure as a three-dimensional image. The system scales the surgeon’s hand movements to miniature surgical instruments.

Medical Malpractice Case Dismissed Because Plaintiff Did Not Retain a “Similar Health Care Provider” As an Expert: Wilkins v. Connecticut Childbirth and Women’s Center

676878_88902670.jpgConnecticut law requires a plaintiff in a medical malpractice case to obtain an opinion letter from a “similar health care provider” regarding evidence of medical negligence. The question of what constitutes a “similar” provider came before the Appellate Court of Connecticut in Wilkins v. Connecticut Childbirth and Women’s Center, after a plaintiff sued over injuries she allegedly sustained during childbirth and postpartum care. The court held that the opinion of an OB/GYN did not meet the statutory requirements when the allegedly negligent health care provider was a nurse midwife.

The plaintiff, Kristin Wilkins, sought care from the defendant, Connecticut Childbirth and Women’s Center (CCWC), during and after her pregnancy. She gave birth on April 17, 2007 under the care of CCWC employees, and she continued to obtain postpartum treatment after the birth. She alleges that CCWC employees, including several nurse midwives and a registered nurse in training, were negligent in failing to diagnose or treat several injuries sustained during childbirth. Her alleged injuries included tearing in multiple tissues that caused “severe and permanent injuries.”

Wilkins filed suit against CCWC and its alleged owner, Women’s Health Associates, P.C. on June 11, 2009, asserting medical negligence. Her husband also asserted a cause of action for loss of consortium. With her complaint, Wilkins submitted a physician’s opinion, as required by Connecticut General Statutes § 52-190a, written by a board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist. The doctor’s opinion, according to the letter, was that one of the registered nurse midwives “departed from the accepted standard of care” by failing to diagnose the plaintiff’s injury.

Jury Verdict for Doctor in Connecticut Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Affirmed on Question of Negligence Allegation

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1208969_96972499.jpgThe Connecticut Court of Appeals recently affirmed a jury’s verdict in favor of a cardiologist in a medical malpractice suit. In Guerri v. Fiengo, a decedent’s estate alleged multiple breaches of the doctor’s duty of care, including a duty to consult with the decedent’s treating physician. The trial court refused to submit this particular negligence allegation to the jury. On appeal, the decedent’s estate argued that the trial court erred in doing so.

The decedent, Craig S. Guerri, went to the emergency room of Groton’s Pequot Treatment Center on December 17, 2006, complaining of chest pains and left-arm numbness. He underwent an electrocardiogram, which showed an “abnormal result.” A physician on duty in the emergency room diagnosed Guerri with “atypical chest wall pain” and discharged him. Later that morning, the on-call cardiologist at a nearby hospital, Dr. Mark Fiengo, reviewed Guerri’s electrocardiogram. The court’s opinion notes that about eighty percent of the electrocardiograms reviewed by Fiengo had “abnormal results.” Fiengo determined that Guerri’s electrocardiogram showed no “critical values,” defined by the hospital as any test result that would cause a patient a “serious adverse outcome” if reporting were delayed. Fiengo therefore took no further action.

Three days later, on December 20, Guerri died. The medical examiner identified the cause of death as a “myocardial infarction” resulting from a “spontaneous dissection of the coronary artery.” The hospital’s policy identifies four electrocardiogram results that it considers “critical values,” one of which is a suspected myocardial infarction, more commonly known as a heart attack.

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.

Connecticut Woman Sues New Haven Hospital After Falling Off Operating Table

320px-Operating_table_system_with_a_stationary_unitAn 81 year-old woman is suing a hospital in New Haven, alleging that her doctor and other hospital staff failed to properly monitor her and ensure her safety while she was recovering from a medical procedure in 2010. She claims that she suffered multiple severe injuries when she fell off the table in the operating room. She is claiming damages for medical expenses and future care needs.

Florence Fiedler, a retired administrator for the FBI, went to Yale-New Haven Hospital on February 7, 2010 to have a pacemaker installed. This is a relatively routine surgical procedure, and it reportedly went well. She alleges that hospital staff left her unattended after the procedure, while she was still under anesthesia. She also claims that the staff did not leave the gurney in a low position, placing her at an unsafe height. She fell off the gurney, allegedly suffering a fractured hip and collarbone, a fractured spine, a broken toe, and a traumatic head injury causing internal bleeding. She claims that she was unable to walk after the fall and had to re-learn how. She also allegedly cannot climb stairs or drive a car. She cannot live on her own, and says that she is now a “shut-in.”

A hospital spokesperson stated that the hospital reported the incident to the state’s health department, and that the hospital has taken corrective measures to prevent future incidents. The hospital also reportedly apologized to Fiedler.

Connecticut Appeals Court Rules that Guaranty Company and Insolvent Insurance Company are Not Liable for Malpractice Settlement

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494499_74504756_03202012.jpgThe Appellate Court of Connecticut issued an opinion on a case that could have an impact on other personal injury claims. In Connecticut Insurance Guaranty Association v. Drown, an appellate panel held that the appellant, a guaranty company covering an insolvent insurance company, is not obligated to pay a settlement from the malpractice claim on behalf of the insurance company. This leaves the appellees, who had entered into a settlement agreement with a clinic, with no means of collecting the judgment.

The lawsuit was originally filed on behalf of Joshua Drown by his parents in May 2000. Drown’s mother, while pregnant with him, was a patient at Health Specialists. She alleged that two doctors who treated her failed to diagnose a placental abruption, which subsequently caused brain damage in Joshua Drown and physical injuries in the mother. The lawsuit sought to impose vicarious liability on Health Specialists for the alleged negligence and malpractice of the two doctors.

Health Specialists, according to the court opinion, reported the claim to its insurance carrier, Exchange, in a timely manner. Exchange provided counsel to defend against the lawsuit. In September 2006, the counsel for Health Specialists did not appear for a court-scheduled mediation. Exchange then sent a letter stating that it was denying coverage based on an exclusion in the policy for claims based solely on injuries caused by individual medical professionals. The counsel retained by Exchange for Health Specialists stopped appearing in court, and in December 2006 the court entered a default judgment in favor of the Drowns. The Drowns and Health Specialists signed a settlement agreement in March 2007 in which Health Spcialists agreed to pay the insurance policy limit amount of $2 million, and the court dismissed the case against Health Specialists. The Drowns agreed not to directly pursue Health Specialists to recover the settlement amount.

Exchange filed for bankruptcy not long after this, and a New Jersey bankruptcy judge ordered a liquidation. The Connecticut Insurance Guaranty Association became legally obligated to pay some “covered claims” based on Exchange’s policy contracts. In early 2009, the Association filed motions for declaratory judgment and summary judgment, arguing that the exclusion originally cited by Exchange in denying the claim relieved the Association of the obligation to pay. The defendants filed a cross-motion for Summary Judgment, arguing that the Association was responsible for the entire settlement amount.

The trial court granted the defendants’ motion and ruled against the Association. It also reportedly held that the Association was estopped from enforcing the provisions of the insurance policy because its predecessor, Exchange, breached its duty to Health Specialists to defend them in the litigation. The association appealed, and the appeal was heard in October 2011.