Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Recent Defense Verdict in Columbia County Medical Malpractice Case

Last Friday, March 26, 2010, a defense verdict was entered in the Columbia County Court of Common Pleas in the medical malpractice case of Carol Ann Kowalski and Michael Kowalski v. Bloomsburg Hospital and Robert Meloy, M.D., No. 2006-CV-843 MD (Columbia Co.).

Plaintiffs were represented by William Anzalone and Jamie Anzalone of the Anzalone Law firm in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. The individual doctor defendant was represented by James Doherty, Jr., Esquire and James Doherty, III, Esquire of the Scranton law firm of Scanlon, Howley & Doherty. The presiding Judge was the Honorable Scott W. Naus.

The case involved Plaintiff, Carol Ann Kowalski, who was recovering at the Bloomsburg hospital from a right knee replacement surgery, which took place on June 29, 2005. The surgery was performed by a Dr. Williams who placed the Plaintiff on a patient controlled morphine pump and ambient sleeping pill, as necessary. The patient was under the care of the hospital nursing staff from 10:30 p.m. on 6/29/05 until 7:00 a.m. on 6/30/05. During the course of the evening the patient was given a sleeping pill, pursuant to the surgeon’s order and her monitoring was all normal during the course of the early morning hours.

The Defendant, Dr. Meloy, an internist, was performing rounds on 6/30/05 on behalf of the surgeon Dr, Williams. Dr. Meloy was informed by the nurses that the patient was doing fine, her vitals were normal and that she was resting comfortably after having fallen asleep at 3:00 a.m. Dr. Meloy performed a preliminary evaluation on the patient and confirmed the findings of the nursing staff and then advised be would be back later to do a full physical exam after the patient woke up. Approximately 30 minutes later the patient was found to be in an alleged morphine overdose state.

Plaintiffs alleged that the Plaintiff suffered permanent frontal lobe brain damage from a morphine overdose, which they allege should have been identified in advance by the nursing staff and by Dr. Meloy at the time of his initial evaluation.

The defendant doctor, on the basis of the expert testimony presented, essentially argued that, as a doctor on rounds, it was within a reasonable standard of care for him to rely upon the representations of the nursing staff that cared for the Plaintiff through the night before and to defer a full examination of the patient until she woke up, particularly where there were no signs of distress.

No evidence was entered against the hospital by Plaintiffs at trial. Rather, the Plaintiffs focused their case on the Defendant doctor.

Plaintiffs’ experts:

- Dr. Richard Millman – standard of care for internist – From Rhode Island
- Ronald Burch, M.D., Ph.D (pharmacology)
- Michael Raymond, Ph.D (neuropsychologist)
- John Kline, Jr. , M.D. (physiatrist)
- Mona Yudkoff, RN – life care plan of over $1.5 million

Defense experts

- Gregory Kane, M.D. (internist at Jefferson)
- Wayne E. Dubov, M.D. (physiatrist)

Defense verdict:

Jury was out only approximately 40 minutes before returning with a defense verdict in favor of both Dr. Meloy and the Bloomsburg Hospital.

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