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.


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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.”


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When a family member or loved one is killed as a result of the negligence of another person, it can be understandably difficult to determine what next steps you need to take. In cases such as these, the terms “wrongful death” and “survival” claims are typically discussed. These types of claims aim to recover damages for the families of the deceased. Although both terms are frequently referenced together, they are actually very separate and distinct terms. For this reason, it is extremely important that families understand what each means.

A wrongful death claim is an action to recover damages for the death of an individual. In addition, money may also be recovered for reasonable hospital, nursing, medical, and funeral expenses, as well any expenses resulting from the administration necessitated by the reason(s) of death. The money recovered in a wrongful death claim will only go to either the spouse, child(ren), or parents of the deceased, and only as beneficiaries. Each of these individuals is entitled to money in accordance with intestacy laws. Intestacy is a legal term that refers to any individual who has died without a Will in place. As a result, money obtained from a wrongful death claim is distributed by these laws, so even if there is a Will prior to death, that will not affect or control how this money is distributed amongst family members.


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