Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Updates in the Medical Malpractice Arena

Lackawanna County Jury Verdict

According to an article by staff writer Joe McDonald in the April 21, 2010 Scranton Times, on Monday, April 19, 2010, a Lackawanna County jury returned a verdict in the amount of $1.2 million dollars in favor of a plaintiff in a medical malpractice case against the Tyler Memorial Hospital physicians Daniel Costner and Jeffrey Lubin. Plaintiffs alleged that the Defendants were negligent in the death of Michael Scarpa, a 55-year-old retired Long Island railroad worker.

Mr. Scarpa died two days after he was sent home from the hospital emergency room, where he had complained of chest pains and vomiting for three days. He was allegedly advised to take cough medicine, rest and see his family doctor in two days. A later autopsy revealed that the Plaintiff had an ulcerated esophagus. The cause of death was noted to be sepsis, or blood poisoning, caused by a perforated esophagus that allowed food to enter into his pleural cavity.

The jury found that the hospital was 40 percent responsible, Dr. Lubin was 30 percent responsible and Dr. Coster was ruled to have been 20 percent responsible. The jury also found that the Plaintiff's decedent was 10 percent responsible.

The Plaintiffs were represented by Attorney Matthew A. Cartwright and Robert W. Munley, III, of the Scranton law firm of Munley, Munley & Cartwright. The presiding judge was Judge Carmen Minora.

It was indicated in the article that delay damages may increase the verdict to closer to $1.9 million dollars.

To review the Scranton Times article and more details on the case, click here: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/jury-awards-widow-1-2-million-in-scranton-malpractice-trial-1.738278.


Recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court Decision

Back on March 25, 2010, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued a decision, written by Justice Seamus P. McCaffery, in the case of Vicari v. Spiegel, 989 A.2d 1277 (Pa. 2010) in which it held that, pursuant to Section 512 of the Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error Act, 40 Pa.C.S. 1303.512, an expert may be permitted to testify at trial in a medical malpractice case even though the testifying expert is board certified in a different field from the defendant doctor and even though the expert practices in a subspecialty different from the specialty of the defendant doctor.

The Court noted that the relatedness of one field of medicine to another for purposes of expert testimony must be assessed on a case-by-case basis with respect to the specific care at issue.

In this case, the Plaintiff's decedent died from tongue cancer. Among the defendants sued was a otolaryngologist, who managed the decedent's care, as well as a radiation oncologist. At issue was whether the Plaintiff could proceed to the jury on the testimony of an expert medical oncologist. The Supreme Court ruled that the Plaintiff's expert testimony was sufficient even though the Plaintiff's expert had a different board certification and was not of the same specialty as the defendant doctors.

A copy of this majority opinion can be reviewed by clicking this link: http://www.courts.state.pa.us/OpPosting/Supreme/out/J-94AB-2009mo.pdf.

Justice Castille's Concurring Opinion (joined by Justice Baer): http://www.courts.state.pa.us/OpPosting/Supreme/out/J-94AB-2009co1.pdf.

Justice Saylor's Concurring Opinion (joined by Justice Eakin): http://www.courts.state.pa.us/OpPosting/Supreme/out/J-94AB-2009co2.pdf.

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