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Access to a nurse’s personnel file became a key issue in a recent PA medical malpractice wrongful death and survival action. In Snyder v. DeCesare, the Court of Common Pleas of Lackawanna County considered whether plaintiffs were entitled to disclosure of the personnel file of defendant Heather Shingler, RN. Plaintiffs alleged that their unborn child died in utero due to negligent fetal monitoring by the nurse, who was subsequently terminated from her employment with defendant Moses Taylor Hospital.

Plaintiffs sought a court order to compel production of the nurse’s personnel file, alleging a nexus between her termination of employment and her alleged negligent fetal monitoring. Defendants claimed there was no connection between the two events. Also, Nurse Shingler denied that her termination was related to the facts alleged in this case.

Continue Reading Hospital Must Disclose Fired Nurse’s Personnel File in PA Medical Malpractice Case

On March 10, 2017, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) announced that first-year doctors will be allowed to work 24-hour shifts in hospitals starting July 1, 2017. The cap that has limited shifts to 16 consecutive hours of patient care since 2011 will be lifted. The 80-hours-per-week cap remains in place.

Balancing the logistics of physician training with the safety and needs of patients has been the subject of controversy and debate for decades. According to a recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine, the debate centers on the concern that longer hours mean less sleep and sleep-deprived residents might make errors. However, that is countered by other concerns about shorter work hours resulting in more patient hand-offs that could affect patient care.

Continue Reading Residents’ Return to 24-Hour Shifts Rekindles Controversy Over Patient Care

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court will hear an appeal from the dismissal of a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the widow of Derek Valentino, a triathlete who drowned in a 2010 event organized by Philadelphia Triathlete LLC. The Court will determine whether the wrongful death claims brought by Mr. Valentino’s widow against Philadelphia Triathlete are barred by the liability waiver signed by him.

As part of the registration process for the triathlon, Mr. Valentino paid a fee and electronically executed the liability waiver assuming all risks of participating in the event. The swimming portion of the competition occurred in the Schuylkill River. Mr. Valentino entered the river on the morning of the event; his body was discovered in the river the following day.

In her wrongful death suit, Mr. Valentino’s widow claimed that Philadelphia Triathlete was grossly negligent and reckless. She maintained that the event organizers “failed to inspect or maintain the event course, failed to warn of or remove dangerous conditions, failed to properly plan or organize the event, failed to follow safety standards, and failed to properly train employees.”

Continue Reading Pennsylvania Justices to Review Waiver of Liability in Triathlete Wrongful Death Case

A Pennsylvania judge recently entered a $41.6 million verdict against the federal government after an obstetrician employed by a federally-funded health clinic negligently used forceps to deliver a baby. The baby suffered severe permanent brain damage as a result.

The lawsuit claimed that the obstetrician applied excessive force and traction and misapplied the forceps on the baby’s skull while performing a mid-forceps delivery, causing catastrophic neurological injury to the baby. One expert testified at trial that mid-level forceps deliveries are indicated only in severe, life-threatening emergencies. Another noted that the use of forceps caused multiple skull fractures, bleeding in the brain and destruction to the cerebellum and brain stem.

Continue Reading Federal Government Must Pay $41.6M for Negligent Forceps Delivery

In a Common Pleas Court decision, the Honorable Terrence R. Nealon set forth a detailed discussion concerning what materials are discoverable in a medical malpractice action under the Peer Review Protection Act (“PRPA”). 63 P.S. §§425.1 – 425.4.

In Vaccaro v. Scranton Quincy Hospital Company, LLC, plaintiffs allege obstetrical and hospital negligence leading to a minor plaintiff suffering an acute hypoxic ischemic brain injury, resulting in catastrophic injury and disability. The case involves an alleged failure to promptly diagnose and treat a placental abruption, and asserts that objective signs indicating a need for emergency cesarean section were ignored, leading to the alleged brain injury.

Continue Reading PA Courts Discuss Documents Shielded by Peer Review Protection Act

The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) announced on March 10 that first-year doctors will be allowed to work 24-hour shifts in hospitals starting July 1. The cap currently limiting physicians to 16 consecutive hours of patient care will now be lifted. The new standards will allow four hours to transition patients from one doctor to the next, so first-year residents could work as long as 28 straight hours, the same as more senior medical residents.

Continue Reading First-Year Doctors to Begin Working 24-Hour Shifts

According to an article in Outpatient Surgery, every day, operating room (OR) teams nationwide leave almost a dozen surgical sponges inside their patients. To improve patient safety, Stryker implemented its “SurgiCount Safety-Sponge System” to keep track of surgical sponges. Reducing or eliminating the number of surgical sponges left behind reduces the risk of infection and permanent injury, the need for additional surgery, and even patient fatalities. Healthcare providers are hopeful to realize cost savings arising from legal expenses, malpractice settlements and awards, and non-reimbursable patient care.

Continue Reading Manufacturer Guarantees Surgical Sponge-Scanning System

In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and in the State of New Jersey the explosion of trampoline park openings continues. These facilities insist that lengthy Releases/Waivers of Liability are executed which purportedly bar any claims arising out of injury that may occur based on ordinary negligence of the facility or its employees or agents. If their actions were to rise to the level of recklessness there is the opportunity to vitiate, or make the waiver null and void. Interestingly in other jurisdictions that also have laws concerning waivers of liability and releases, litigation against these types of facilities are proceeding with some success.

Continue Reading Trampoline Park Injuries

A Professor of Surgery at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Martin Makary, M.D., M.P.H., has published his research into various categories of treatment of patients in hospitals. These categories ranged from more simplistic “bad doctors” to “more systemic issues such as communication breakdowns when patients are handed off from one department to another.”

Dr. Makary explained that “when a plane crashes, we don’t say this is confidential proprietary information the airline company owns… we consider it part of public safety. Hospitals should be held to the same standards.” The study and research was done to illuminate problems which are normally swept under the rug by hospitals and healthcare facilities. Often, these facilities will go out of their way to avoid discussing any issues or risks, and frankly bend over backwards to keep such information confidential, arguing it is “privileged.”

Continue Reading Medical Errors are the Third Leading Cause of Death in the U.S.