Category Archives: medical malpractice

Play dealing with Marriage Equality and Medical Malpractice debuts at Trinity Rep

Love Alonea timely play, debuts this week at Trinity Rep on March 16th and runs through May 27, 2012.  Check the play out on Facebook here.

The play deals head-on with marriage equality and medical malpractice by telling a fictional story of what happens when a routine procedure goes tragically wrong. In light of Rhode Island’s 2010 civil union bill and the current bill before the House to allow doctors to say “I’m sorry” for medical negligence, Love Alone couldn’t be more relevant.

Internationally awarded playwright Deborah Salem Smith is the author of Love Alone and the playwright-in-residence at Trinity Repertory Company in Providence. She has a personal connection to the subject matter in that her partner of 14 years is a doctor and her father-in-law is an attorney who represents patients and hospitals in medical malpractice lawsuits.
Love Alone was among 19 plays in the nation to be awarded a prestigious Edgerton Foundation New American Play Award and received an honorable mention from the Jane Chambers Award, the country’s premier women’s playwriting award. Recognized for its exploration of the complex human emotions experienced by those involved in medical error, Love Alone paints a loving portrait about how we grieve and how we heal.
Smith’s previous honors include an Emerging American Artist Fulbright for playwriting in Dublin, Ireland, where she worked with the Abbey Theatre, Ireland’s national theatre. Smith’s work has been recognized by a National Mellon Fellowship in the Humanities, a MacDowell Fellowship, a Colby Fellowship, a Major Hopwood Award, as well as writing and visual arts prizes from the University of Michigan and Princeton University. Her previous plays, which have been deemed “luminous, intelligent, provocative and deeply moving,” by The Boston Globe, include Boots on the Ground, Some Things Are Private, Good Business, and Caviar.

Defendant Hospital Ordered to Costs & Attorneys’ Fees after Improper Closing Argument

RI Lawyers Weekly has the update on a case (involving the firm where I work) that we profiled here last summer: Vann v. Women and Infants Hospital:

A hospital must pay the attorneys’ fees of a medical-malpractice plaintiff after defense counsel’s improper closing argument caused a mistrial, a Superior Court judge has ruled.

The plaintiff argued that a fee award was appropriate because the defendant’s comments about the plaintiff’s expert witness during the closing amounted to an attempt to present an “anything is possible” causation theory that the judge had already prohibited.

Presiding Judge Alice B. Gibney agreed.

“[T]his case presents unique and different circumstances from those involving mere improper statements during a closing argument,” Gibney said. “Accordingly, this Court equitably fashions a remedy that requires Defendant to reimburse Plaintiffs for attorneys’ fees and costs related to [the expert]’s appearance at the first trial.”

The 14-page decision is Vann v. Women and Infants Hospital, Lawyers Weekly No. 61-174-10. The full text of the ruling can be found by clicking here.

Providence attorneys Miriam Weizenbaum and Amato A. DeLuca represented the plaintiff. Michael G. Sarli of Providence represented the defendant.

Trial Lawyers Hold Protect Seniors & Hold Nursing Homes Accountable

A new report released today by the American Association for Justice (AAJ) illustrates how the civil justice system is the most effective force in uncovering abuses by corporate nursing homes and insurance companies that target elderly Americans.

Large corporate chains run nursing homes where 1.5 million elderly Americans currently reside. Many of these vulnerable residents have suffered abuse by staff members and even died from dehydration or infection caused by inadequate care. The report explains how litigation has revealed this neglect and abuse and allowed residents and their families to hold offending corporations accountable.

“Corporate nursing homes and insurance companies have continually chosen to put profits ahead of the well-being of our most vulnerable population,” said AAJ President Gibson Vance. “Where regulatory and legislative bodies have been unable to cope with this distressing rise of neglect and abuse of our elderly, the civil justice system has stepped into the breach.”

This year the American Association for Justice has fought against hidden forced arbitration clauses in nursing home contracts preventing seniors from seeking justice in court. AAJ helped move proposed nursing home legislation, and other forced arbitration bills, through hearings rounding up 115 cosponsors in the House and 13 in the Senate.

Texas Supreme Court Rules in Hospital Injuries Case

The Texas Tribune reports that the Texas Supreme Court has ruled that injuries unrelated to medical error are still subject to Texas’ strict medical malpractice caps – continuing Texas’ reputation as one of the most anti-civil justice jurisdictions in the nation.

The case was filed by Irving Marks, who fell at Houston’s St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital in 2000 while recovering from surgery. The suit claimed a broken hospital bed caused to Mark’s fall and therefore he should be entitled to sue the hospital for unlimited damages.

At least $1.5 Million awarded in Federal Vaccine Case

CBS News reports that the first court award in a vaccine-autism claim is a big one: the family of Hannah Poling will receive more than $1.5 million dollars for her life care; lost earnings; and pain and suffering for the first year alone.

In addition to the first year, the family will receive more than $500,000 per year to pay for Hannah’s care. Those familiar with the case believe the compensation could easily amount to $20 million over the child’s lifetime.

Hannah was described as normal, happy and precocious in her first 18 months.

Then, in July 2000, she was vaccinated against nine diseases in one doctor’s visit: measles, mumps, rubella, polio, varicella, diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, and Haemophilus influenzae.

Afterward, her health declined rapidly. She developed high fevers, stopped eating, didn’t respond when spoken to, began showing signs of autism, and began having screaming fits. In 2002, Hannah’s parents filed an autism claim in federal vaccine court. Five years later, the government settled the case before trial and had it sealed. It’s taken more than two years for both sides to agree on how much Hannah will be compensated for her injuries.

Read Sharyl Attkisson’s 2008 report on Hannah Poling

In acknowledging Hannah’s injuries, the government said vaccines aggravated an unknown mitochondrial disorder Hannah had which didn’t “cause” her autism, but “resulted” in it. It’s unknown how many other children have similar undiagnosed mitochondrial disorder. All other autism “test cases” have been defeated at trial. Approximately 4,800 are awaiting disposition in federal vaccine court.

Time Magazine summed up the relevance of the Poling case in 2008: …(T)here’s no denying that the court’s decision to award damages to the Poling family puts a chink — a question mark — in what had been an unqualified defense of vaccine safety with regard to autism. If Hannah Poling had an underlying condition that made her vulnerable to being harmed by vaccines, it stands to reason that other children might also have such vulnerabilities.”

Then-director of the Centers for Disease Control Julie Gerberding (who is now President of Merck Vaccines) stated: “The government has made absolutely no statement indicating that vaccines are a cause of autism. This does not represent anything other than a very specific situation and a very sad situation as far as the family of the affected child.”

Read the newly-released decision on Hannah Poling’s compensation.

Study Says Medical Errors Cost Nearly $20 Billion Every Year

The Wall Street Journal “Health Blog” reported on a study released Monday by the Society of Actuaries which states that medical errors cost the US $19.5 billion in 2008.  The costs include both medical costs and those linked to lost productivity.  The Hill reports that the dollar figure cited is “likely low,” according to consultants at Milliman, “who crunched the data.” Jonathan Shreve, an actuary for Milliman who co-authored the report, said, “We used a conservative methodology and still found 1.5 million measureable medical errors occurred in 2008.”  More than “half of those costs were associated with just five avoidable medical injuries: pressure ulcers; post-op infections; mechanical troubles with devices, implants or grafts; post-laminectomy syndrome; and hemorrhages.”

Skilled Healthcare Group Class Action Yields Largest Verdict of 2010

American Lawyer notes that “On Tuesday, a California state court jury awarded $671 million in damages to a class of plaintiffs who alleged that Skilled Healthcare Group had inadequately staffed its nursing homes. According to data compiled by Bloomberg, this is the largest verdict of 2010.” Class counsel W. Timothy Needham of Janssen, Malloy, Needham, Morrison, Reinholtsen, Crowley & Griego said that “plaintiffs lawyers…first began to consider a class action against Skilled Healthcare after suing the company and its facilities in individual wrongful death cases and learning of widespread violations.”