Albany, New York Personal Injury Blog

New mother sues doctors over baby’s severe birth injuries

09
May
2013

Expectant mothers try to do everything they can to make sure that their baby is born healthy and happy. They take all the parenting classes, they eat the right foods, and they stay away from secondhand smoke and abstain from alcohol.

Sadly, even if you do everything right, you can’t guarantee that a pregnancy and delivery will be free from complications. A significant number of birth injuries are caused, not by a mother’s mistakes, but by the negligence of the hospital and its physicians. Complications or injuries during birth can irreparably damage a newborn for the rest of his or her life.

As just one of many examples of the heartbreaking consequences of birth injuries, an Illinois woman has filed a lawsuit against the obstetrician and midwife who delivered her baby. Her lawsuit alleges that because they repeatedly ignored signs of fetal distress and failed to deliver the baby quickly enough, her daughter was born severely and permanently disabled.

The plaintiff alleges that her daughter was so badly injured during delivery that she will never be able to walk, talk, think, work or enjoy life. Additionally, medical bills and other care costs that the family will incur are estimated to total tens of millions of dollars.

It is frightening and heartbreaking to think that an otherwise healthy baby could suffer so much harm during the transition from the womb into the world. That’s why competent and experienced perinatal care is crucial to successful childbirth. When doctors are negligent in their care, both parents and children deserve to be compensated.

Source: Madison-St. Clair Record, “Obstetrician and midwife accused of failing to timely deliver infant,” Kelly Holleran, May 2, 2013

Medical malpractice costs to the system are surprisingly low

06
May
2013

The cost of healthcare in America has been a focal point for general discussion, media coverage and political action for many years. As medical costs skyrocket and the safety of patients remains frequently in peril, Americans are struggling with how to decrease costs while increasing the quality of patient care. Unfortunately, the subject of medical malpractice payouts has gotten dangerously muddied during the course of this discussion.

Many people incorrectly assume that medical malpractice suits are wasteful and that their payouts are greatly contributing to the rising costs of medical care generally. In reality, neither of these assumptions is based in fact. Medical malpractice lawsuits serve to hold healthcare providers accountable for substandard care that significantly harms patients. And the malpractice claims that these victims receive are both necessary and not a drain on the system.

When a victim suffers malpractice, their personal injury claim most often amounts to the cost of related medical care and nothing more. Tragically, medical malpractice award caps have even left scores of victims unable to pay their related medical bills. In addition, these claims do not tax the system in the ways that most Americans may have been led to believe.

According to a study recently released by experts at Johns Hopkins, medical malpractice settlements and awards comprise much less than one percent of America’s annual medical expenditures. The healthcare system is in dire need of reform. However, the idea that victims of medical malpractice are somehow leading to the system’s decline and that they should not be allowed access to adequate compensation for their injuries is quite simply false.

Source: Claims Journal, “Catastrophic Malpractice Payouts Add Little to Health Care’s Rising Costs,” Johns Hopkins Medicine, May 2, 2013

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New York family awarded $130 million in birth injury lawsuit

24
April
2013

Last month, we wrote that when you or a loved one has been injured by medical negligence, it can be a bad idea to accept a settlement offer without taking time to carefully consider your options. An experienced medical malpractice attorney can help you determine the best course of action, even if a settlement seems tempting at first.

A great example of this is a New York case that has been making national headlines. It involved a lawsuit against a hospital filed by the parents of a 10-year-old girl who suffers from severe cerebral palsy due to inadequate and negligent perinatal care. On the advice of their attorney, the parents rejected an $8 million settlement offer; and although it took some patience and persistence, the family was eventually awarded $130 million by a jury.

The lawsuit alleged that the staff at a Port Jefferson, New York, hospital failed to notice that the newly delivered baby had been deprived of oxygen at birth. As a result, she now has a severe case of cerebral palsy and cannot walk or speak. She requires 24-hour medical care each and every day.

The attorney convinced the girl’s parents to reject an $8 million settlement offer. When they did, the case went to trial and they lost. The family was devastated and the attorney was mocked in the press.

However, he was tenacious and appealed the verdict. After several years and a lot of struggle, the family was eventually awarded $130 million by a jury. Commenting on the outcome, the attorney said: “This case was a living nightmare for four years, but the family never gave up and I never gave up.”

The girl’s mother added that “the agony of the last 10 years is finally ended with the knowledge that our beloved daughter will be protected for the rest of her life.”

Not every medical malpractice lawsuit ends so triumphantly for the plaintiffs. But this case shows that even if a settlement offer seems lucrative, it may just be a physician’s or hospital’s attempt to avoid paying even more money because they know that they made a preventable and devastating medical error.

For this and other reasons, anyone who has been harmed by medical negligence should seek the help of an experienced medical malpractice attorney.

Source: New York Post, “This lawyer turned down $8M… and got them $130M,” Julia Marsh and Bob Fredericks, Apr. 18, 2013

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Injuries still common during surgeries using robots

18
April
2013

If you have had one of a variety of different surgeries – including prostate or gallbladder removal or a hysterectomy – in recent years, you have likely been informed about the increasingly common use of robots during operations. In fact, just last year, approximately 367,000 operations were performed in which robots were used across the country.

This represents a sharp increase in the number of surgeries using robots performed in the U.S. – in 2008, there were only around 114,000 such operations conducted. These operations are still controlled by surgeons, but the physicians are able to use a robot called da Vinci – made by Intuitive Surgical Inc. – to make the incisions and perform the actual operation.

Reports have shown that surgical errors appear to still be prevalent when da Vinci is used to perform operations. According to the Food and Drug Administration, the number of mistakes made during operations involving robots has been on the rise. In 2012 alone, at least five people were reportedly killed due to surgical errors made in operations in which robots were used.

For instance, in one case a man from New York was having prostate surgery. During the operation, his colon was punctured by the robotic arm. Other cases have shown problems with the robot itself. During a colorectal surgery, the surgeon was unable to get the robotic arm to let go of tissue that it grabbed during the surgery.

Individuals who are injured due to surgical errors would be wise to seek the advice of a skilled personal injury attorney to ensure their rights are protected.

Source: CBS News, “FDA eyes increase in freak accidents during robotic surgeries,” April 9, 2013.

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NY attorney wants to use medical malpractice cases as teaching tools

12
April
2013

It is said that those who fail to learn from their mistakes are bound to repeat them. This is true in many aspects of life, but especially in medical care. The vast majority of medical mistakes are preventable; and unless physicians and aspiring physicians can learn from past medical errors, patients will continue to suffer preventable harm.

With this in mind, one medical malpractice attorney in New York has come up with an idea that has been well received by fellow attorneys and judges. He wants to create a central database of closed medical malpractice lawsuits with names and identifying information removed. Doctors and medical schools could use these as real-life case studies in order to learn from them and improve patient safety.

Medical malpractice lawsuits are intricate. Lawyers for both sides spend hundreds and sometimes thousands of hours researching the facts of a given case. They may also bring in independent medical experts to review the details of a malpractice claim in order to determine what went wrong and how it could have been prevented.

When the case is over, that mountain of information usually gets filed away and is unavailable for public review. If this attorney’s proposal is adopted, however, medical professionals and medical students in New York would have access to these powerful teaching tools.

The attorney recently held a panel discussion to get feedback from judges and experts in medical malpractice cases. Those in attendance seemed quite positive about the idea. The only concerns were about protecting the anonymity of plaintiffs and defendants, which seems easy enough to address.

If the proposal were to be implemented, New York would be the first state in the U.S. to create a centralized clearinghouse for closed medical malpractice cases. Hopefully, the proposal will be adopted and New York can set a positive example for other states to follow.

Source: Thomson Reuters News & Insight, “Tapping medical malpractice cases for safety lessons,” Terry Baynes, Apr. 11, 2013

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Serious physician misdiagnosis results in woman’s foot amputation

04
April
2013

Most doctors are pretty thorough when it comes to examining and diagnosing their patients. These medical professionals know that anything short of a thorough examination could cause them to miss an important symptom and potentially put their patients at risk.

Unfortunately, there are some doctors who have very little regard for patient safety, which causes them to take a recklessly lax approach to examination and diagnosis. Unsurprisingly, this eventually leads to misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis of serious and life-threatening conditions.

While it didn’t occur here in New York, a recent medical malpractice verdict highlights the dangers that these negligent doctors pose. In 2004, a Washington State woman visited a local physician. She was suffering from pneumonia, but this was not the diagnosis she received. After a very incomplete physical, the doctor somehow diagnosed the woman with terminal cancer.

Thankfully, she did not actually have this fatal disease. However, because the doctor failed to diagnose and treat her pneumonia, her illness caused her to lapse into a coma. Eventually, this led to the amputation of her left foot.

After hearing this evidence, the jury ruled in favor of the plaintiff and she was recently awarded $813,000 in damages.

This was not the doctor’s only serious case of delayed or misdiagnosis. In 2007, he was fined twice by the state for diagnostic errors. The first involved a failure to diagnose a patient with rectal cancer over a period of six years. The second involved a failure to recognize and treat one patient’s cardiac symptoms. The patient later suffered a heart attack.

Thankfully, negligent physicians like this one are the exception and not the rule. Nonetheless, the harm they cause to patients cannot be understated. That’s why anyone who has suffered harm as a result of physician error or negligence should speak with an experienced medical malpractice attorney.

Source: The Spokesman-Review, “Suit against doctor yields $813,000,” Thomas Clouse, Mar. 29, 2013

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Injured by medical malpractice? Don’t settle too quickly

26
March
2013

Anyone who has been injured by medical negligence will tell you that a lawsuit can take significant time. Hospitals in New York and across the country often try to take advantage of this and tempt injured patients with a quick settlement in order to avoid litigation.

However, taking the settlement may not always be in your best interest. In many cases where patients have filed a medical malpractice lawsuit, hospitals will offer a settlement amount that is substantial but significantly less than what patients could be awarded if the case went to trial. In other cases, patients might request a settlement amount without knowing how much compensation they may be entitled to in a jury trial.

A good example of the latter scenario comes from Pennsylvania, where a man was recently awarded $250,000 in a medical malpractice lawsuit. The man had sued the hospital that removed his gallbladder. In his lawsuit, he alleged that after his 2007 surgery, the hospital failed to provide prompt and appropriate treatment for his post-operative medical issues.

As a result of this delayed care, the lawsuit alleged, the patient sustained a severe hernia. The injury limited his ability to work his job and perform household tasks. The hernia also required additional operations to correct.

Prior to the trial, the patient and his wife offered to settle with the hospital for $100,000. The hospital’s refusal of that offer worked to the man’s advantage, however, as he was ultimately awarded a figure 2.5 times higher than his original offer.

Whether a medical malpractice settlement offer comes from the hospital or not, no injured patient should agree to or propose a settlement without legal counsel. A qualified medical malpractice attorney can help injured patients understand their rights and legal options.

Source: PennLive.com, “Dauphin County jury awards $250K damages in medical malpractice case,” Matt Miller, Mar. 11, 2013

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Recipient of diseased donated organ later dies of rabies

22
March
2013

Organ donation fulfills an important medical need, and donated organs have saved the lives of millions in New York and across the country. But organs are only life-saving if they are viable and free of infectious disease. If not, a donated organ can be lethal to the recipient.

It is up to organ procurement organizations to evaluate each organ donor’s suitability, and up to hospitals to confirm that an organ is both viable and disease-free before it is implanted. Negligence on the part of any healthcare professionals in this area can lead to deadly infections in patients.

Sadly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently confirmed that a patient in Maryland contracted and died of rabies as a result of a donated organ. In 2011, the organ donor became ill and was admitted to the hospital where he or she later died. The donor’s kidneys, heart and liver were donated to four recipients around the country.

Because rabies wasn’t suspected, doctors never tested for it. Almost a year after the patient in Maryland was implanted with an infected organ, the patient died of rabies. The CDC has confirmed that the donor and the recipient died from the same strain of rabies, and other recipients with organs from that donor are now being carefully monitored.

A case like this is rare, but it happens. And when it does, the results can be devastating or deadly. Any families who have lost a loved one because of an infection sustained during the course of medical treatment may wish to contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “CDC confirms rabies death in organ transplant recipient,” Mar. 15, 2013

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Painful eye surgery continued after patient woke up, lawsuit says

12
March
2013

Imagine going in for what you expect to be routine surgery. As you lie on the operating table and start to feel sleepy from the anesthesia, you are comforted by the fact that you won’t feel pain during the procedure and will wake up with only mild post-surgical discomfort. But part way through the surgery, you wake up. You can feel the surgeon operating on you but you can’t stop it. You may even be paralyzed and unable to speak.

For most of us, this nightmarish scenario would be deeply traumatizing. Yet nearly 30,000 Americans a year suffer this fate; a condition called “anesthesia awareness.” Sometimes it happens because of the unique way a patient responds to anesthesia. Other times, however, it is due to preventable anesthesia errors.

In one recent medical malpractice case, a Mississippi man claims that his doctors “tortured” him after he awoke in the middle of cataract surgery. In his complaint, the man says that he was able to speak when he awoke and asked his surgeon to stop the procedure. But the medical staff allegedly put tape over his mouth and continued the operation.

The man even claims that he was held down so forcefully that one of his teeth was knocked out and swallowed. To add insult to this alleged injury, his surgery was unsuccessful and the man has lost all vision in his right eye.

If these allegations are true, they represent offenses far more reprehensible than medical errors alone. In many respects, this patient’s experiences were unlike those of other victims of anesthesia awareness.

But what is similar is the fact that anesthesia awareness can be extremely frightening, injurious and traumatic. When such injuries are the result of anesthesia errors, negligent physicians need to be held accountable.

Sources:
Louisiana Record, “Man who awoke during cataract surgery sues over loss of vision and alleged ‘torture’,” Kyle Barnett, Feb. 23, 2013
OpposingViews.com, “Man Sues Over Loss Of Vision And Alleged Torture After Waking Up During Cataract Surgery,” Sarah Rae Fruchtnicht, Feb. 26, 2013

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New York woman awarded $1.25 million in medical malpractice suit

08
March
2013

In our post last week, we wrote that failure to diagnose serious medical conditions is a widespread problem among primary care physicians. For patients in Albany and across the state, the primary care physician is often the first resource we seek when we have a medical issue.

If any doctor fails to correctly diagnose a serious medical issue, it could put our health or even our lives in jeopardy. For some conditions, even a delayed diagnosis of just a few hours can cause significant and long-lasting damage.

A good example of this comes from a recent medical malpractice lawsuit in Utica. The plaintiff is a 22-year-old girl who suffered an ischemic stroke when she was just 16. She was rushed to St. Elizabeth Medical Center, but it took seven hours for the staff to finally consult with a neurologist and correctly diagnose her condition.

By this time, it was too late to take advantage of a certain clot-busting medication, because it was only effective if administered within the first three hours after a stroke. As a result of her delayed diagnosis and treatment, the young woman still suffers significant problems with speech and movement, and has had to endure years of physical therapy.

Thankfully, the jury hearing the case ruled in favor of the determined young woman, and awarded her $1.25 million to cover past medical expenses as well as compensate her for pain and suffering in the past and future.

This case shows that during an emergency, a delay of even a few hours can be devastating to a patient’s health. That’s why it is critical for physicians to follow diagnostic protocols and find answers as quickly as possible.

Source: UticaOD.com, “$1.25 million awarded in St. Elizabeth malpractice case,” Rocco LaDuca, Mar. 4, 2013

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