Brooklyn Woman Recovers $18.2 Million for Failure to Diagnose Intestinal Blood Clot

Plaintiff Attorney Steven Miller of Garden City, NY.

Plaintiff Attorney Steven Miller of Garden City, NY.

A jury in New York awarded $18.2 million to a woman who had to have more than 25 surgeries resulting in the loss of her small bowel because doctors failed to diagnose mesenteric ischemia, or inadequate blood flow to the small intestine.

Plaintiff Marianna Zielinska, a 49-year old homemaker, lived in Brooklyn with her husband Edward Sapkowski in 2008 when she presented three times to defendant Lutheran Medical Center with signs and symptoms of mesenteric ischemia.

She was discharged twice with a diagnosis of gastritis/enteritis. On her third presentation she was taken to surgery and eventually found to have portal vein thrombosis.

Zielinska has lost the majority of her small bowel leaving her with short bowel syndrome, which requires her to be on a limited diet, causes her to defecate shortly after a meal and left her with significant abdominal scarring and loss of tissue.

Attorney Steven Miller of  Miller, Montiel & Strano, PC, in Garden City, NY, represented the plaintiff. He is a member of The National Trial Lawyers Top 100 Attorneys. The case is Zielinska v. Lutheran Medical Center et. al., Case Number 22686/10, New York Supreme Court, Kings County.

The verdict amount was $ 18.2 million, including $7 million past pain and suffering, $10 million future pain & suffering and $ 1.2 million past medical expenses.

Lutheran Medical Center settled for an undisclosed sum prior to the verdict. The verdict was rendered against surgeon Corneliu T. Volpe, M.D., who has offices in Brooklyn, NY and was called in during Ms. Zielinska’s second presentation at Lutheran Medical Center from June 13-21, 2008 for surgical consultation. The claim against him was that he misread an abdominal CT that showed evidence of portal vein thrombosis (clot) and ischemic (lack of blood supply) small bowel, hence failure to diagnose.

Further claims were that on her initial presentation at the hospital on June 8, 2008, Zielinska’s blood work and radiology studies indicating mesenteric ischemia were not appreciated and she was sent home with a diagnosis of uterine myoma (benign growth) that did not explain her symptoms.

On her third presentation on June 28, 2008, ischemic bowel was appreciated, she was taken to surgery during which portions of her bowel fell apart, she was admitted until February 26, 2009. During the admission over 20 surgical procedures were performed upon her. After her discharge, she had 4 additional hospitalizations and 4 additional surgeries.

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Florida Jury Awards $15.9 Million in Medical Malpractice Amputation Case

medical malpractice, american association for justiceA Broward County, FL, jury awarded $15.9 million in damages to Miami resident Stephanie Hollingsworth in a medical malpractice case against rheumatologist Dr. Yvonne Sherrer.

Hollingsworth was age 26 when she was forced to undergo amputations of parts of her hands and feet following one week under Dr. Sherrer’s care at Holy Cross Hospital. The Schlesinger legal team successfully argued that Dr. Sherrer’s negligence caused Ms. Hollingsworth’s injuries.

Hollingsworth, who had auto-immune disease, was admitted to the hospital in November 2008 because of a flare-up that was causing pain in her hands and ulcerations on her feet. Her condition was caused by a specific complication that causes blood vessel inflammation and can lead to irreversible damage if not diagnosed and treated in a timely manner with a specific medication called Cytoxan.

Dr. Sherrer did neither. Her inaction led to a progressive deterioration in Hollingsworth’s condition over the course of a week.

Nightmarish injuries

“This doctor’s failure to follow the standard of care for her profession caused this young woman to suffer nightmarish injuries. She will never be able to lead a normal life,” said Hollingsworth’s attorney, Scott Schlesinger of Ft. Lauderdale, FL.

By the time she was transferred to another hospital, she was near death and her extremities were black with gangrene. Doctors at the second hospital administered Cytoxan and saved Hollingsworth’s life. However, they could not save the gangrenous tissue. Hollingsworth lost nine of her toes, part of her left foot, her right thumb and the tips of two fingers. She relies on prosthetic devices and cannot walk or stand for more than 30 minutes. She also suffers from phantom pain and the psychological consequences of the disfiguring amputations.

“Our legal team worked diligently to help the jurors understand the medical records in the case and to ensure that they were not led astray by the revisionist history and after-the-fact justifications presented by the defense,” Schlesinger said.

Schlesinger Law Offices, P.A. tried the case with Peter Somera and Paul Silva of Somera & Silva, L.L.P. and Crane Johnstone of Johnstone Law P.A.

$26 Million Verdict for Childbirth Injuries Caused by Hospital Negligence

A New York jury awarded more than $26 million in a medical malpractice case to a 7-year-old girl who was born deaf and with vocal cord paralysis because a hospital resident failed to prescribe hormones that could have suppressed premature labor.

After a monthlong trial, the jury returned a verdict, awarding more than $26 million to Danielle Madden-Buck and her daughter Aleigha Buck for the child’s past and future pain and suffering. The jury also awarded $500,000 for the wrongful death of her twin sister, who died 28 days after birth.

In 2010 Aleigha was born deaf, along with other health problems. Symptoms of pre-term labor started when her mother was 21 weeks pregnant. Pre-term birth is the biggest cause of injury and death related to childbirth – more than all other risk factors combined.

Seen only by resident

On February 9, 2010, the plaintiff’s mother twice visited the Labor and Delivery Triage Unit at Maimonides Hospital in Brooklyn, NY, due to painful cramping and a brownish discharge that was turning pink, which suggested bleeding. During both visits, she was seen only by a resident – not an attending doctor – and was discharged. The doctors missed the opportunity to prolong the pregnancy by ordering bed rest or prescribing hormones like tocolytics, which can suppress premature labor.

The mother delivered later in February when the twins were still very premature. The child’s twin sister, unfortunately, died one month after her birth. The plaintiff survived, but suffered a host of problems; the most prominent issues were her deafness and vocal cord paralysis. To this day, hearing aids are minimally helpful and she can only communicate through sign language.

Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Ellen Spodek presided over the case. The plaintiff was represented by Jim Wilkens, of counsel to the Sullivan Papain Block McGrath & Cannavo P.C medical malpractice group. He argued that the mother’s condition was a possible precursor to cervical shortening and that she should have been admitted to monitor her cervical length. If this had been done at the first sign of cervical change, bed rest and tocolytics would have been more useful, and could have mitigated the risks of the delivery. The defending obstetricians conceded that those steps would have been effective treatments before the mother’s cervix became too short.

The jury deliberated for eight hours and returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff, awarding more than $26 million for the child’s past and future pain and suffering. The jury also awarded $500,000 for the wrongful death of her twin sister, who died 28 days after birth.

Arizona Jury Awards $12 Million in Wrong Drug Malpractice Case

After receiving a blood-clotting drug, Esmeralda Tripp had a heart attack and was without oxygen for so long that she suffered permanent brain damage.

A 46-year-old Tucson, Arizona, woman recovered $12 million against Banner UMC Hospital for medical malpractice committed by a new resident who prescribed a blood clotting medicine, causing her to have a heart attack that put her into a permanent vegetative state.

Esmeralda Tripp, a mother of four and grandmother of seven, was sent to UMC Hospital on September 13, 2013, by her primary physician. She had taken four times the level of Coumadin that she had been prescribed for blood clots in her legs and lungs. This made her blood too thin to clot.

Tripp had experienced this problem many times in the past, and each time doctors treated her with fresh frozen plasma with Vitamin K, or simply by withholding her Coumadin.

Doc was just out of med school

She was treated by a resident physician, only eight weeks out of medical school, who suggested Profilnine, a dangerous blood-clotting medication. The hospital had a specific guideline on when the drug could be used: The patient had to have serious or life-threatening bleeding or require emergency surgery. 

Tripp did not have any serious or life-threatening bleeding, and she did not require emergency surgery. After the drug was administered, the resident went home for the night and the attending physician left the hospital before the drug was even given.

Only two hours later, Tripp screamed out in pain and her heart rate and blood pressure went extremely high. She had suffered a heart attack and was without oxygen for so long that she suffered permanent brain damage.

Seven weeks later she was discharged from the hospital, in a completely unresponsive state. Four years later, she is still completely unresponsive. Her family cares for her and she receives in-home care provided by Medicaid.

Defense blames the victim

At trial, the defense argued that Tripp did not provide accurate information about her hypertension, irregular heartbeat, heart disease and seizure disorder.

The defense attorney also argued that his clients did nothing wrong. He repeatedly told the jury that the hospital’s own guideline was simply a “suggestion,” and that the doctors could do what they wanted. Finally, he told the jury that since Tripp is not aware of her injuries, she does not need any money for them.

Brian Snyder of Snyder & Wenner, P.C. gave the plaintiff’s opening statement and told the jury what happened and how Tripp’s life has been permanently ruined by these doctors’ choice. Along with David Wenner, the two cross-examined defendants and their experts, obtaining numerous admissions throughout the trial. Co-counsel Kevin Keenan gave the closing argument and asked for $15-20 million to compensate Tripp for her losses.

Only 3 1/2 hours later, the jury returned with a $15 million verdict, which will help pay for the around-the-clock medical care. Tripp is in a hospital bed in her family’s home, cared for by her husband and children. She has a feeding tube and needs to be bathed and turned regularly to prevent bed sores.  and which will compensate her for robbing her of her independence.

Prior to trial, Banner UMC offered $1 million to settle the case and told plaintiff’s counsel that they would never pay a single dollar above that.

Tripp was found 20 percent responsible. The defendants, including University of Arizona Health Network, the Arizona Board of Regents, University Physicians Healthcare, University Medical Center Corp. and the UA College of Medicine — were held 80 percent responsible.

PA Supreme Court Lets $11.3 Million Malpractice Verdict Stand

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal by Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, thereby upholding an $11.3 million verdict against it and three doctors for failing to diagnose an 11-month old boy who had meningitis.

The case is Shantice Tillery, In Her Own Right And Parent And Natural Guardian On Behalf Of Her Minor Son, Shamir D. Tillery v. The Children’s Hospital Of Philadelphia, Children’s Healthcare Associates, Inc., Monika Goyal, M.D., Joel Fein, M.D., and Kyle Nelson, M.D.

On December 21, 2009, the child was brought to the hospital suffering from fever
and difficulty breathing. He was sent home a few hours later with a diagnosis including upper respiratory infection and cough.

He returned the next day, suffering from worsening symptoms, including high fever, irritability, increasing pulse and respiratory rates, dehydration, and lethargy. Dr. Goyal ruled out pneumonia and viral upper respiratory infections. Without any further diagnostic testing, the boy was discharged with a treatment plan consisting of supportive care, a follow-up with a primary physician and return to emergency room instructions.

Third ER visit

The boy returned to the hospital emergency department the next day. Dr. Nelson diagnosed the boy with fever, bronchiolitis, possible pneumonia, possible serious bacterial infection, and possible dehydration. Dr. Nelson offered a treatment plan including IV fluids, checking labs, and reassessing for a possible lumbar puncture.

Nearly an hour later the boy was transferred to Dr. Fein. Blood tests revealed elevated white blood cell counts and an elevated C-reactive protein. Dr. Fein ordered a lumbar puncture, which was not completed until nearly three hours later. The lumbar puncture results led to a diagnosis of meningitis and antibiotics were immediately ordered.

By then the boy had bilateral hearing loss and brain damage.

His mother filed a negligence suit in 2012. On November 16, 2015, the jury found in favor of the boy. The jury assessed 40% of the negligence to Dr. Goyal and 60% of the negligence to Children’s Hospital for the treatment rendered by resident Ram Bishnoi, M.D.

The jury awarded a total verdict of $10,138,000. Adding delay damages, the judgment totaled $11,391,640.

Appeal rejected

The intermediate appellate court rejected five questions brought on appeal:

1. Whether Appellants are entitled to a new trial where Appellee’s experts’ opinions were based solely on their own experience and expertise, not scientific or empirical evidence.

2. Whether the trial court erred by failing to instruct the jury on the “two schools of thought doctrine” in determining whether the standard of care required Appellants to treat a bacterial infection with steroids.

3. Whether the trial court erred in allowing Appellee’s counsel to read to Dr. Poe a statement taken in 2013 from Children’s Hospital website, where the statement, which post-dated the treatment by four years, was used to establish the standard of care and, hence, caused Appellants prejudice.

4. Whether the trial court erred in allowing Appellee’s neurootologist expert to present standard of care expert testimony against Appellant pediatric emergency medicine physicians in circumstances where Appellee’s expert was neither board certified nor practiced in the same sub-specialty as Appellant physicians.

5. Whether the trial court erred by not reducing the excessive verdict and in not reducing Minor-Plaintiff’s future medical expenses to present value before entering judgment as required by MCARE for purposes of calculating the judgment and delay damages.

$62 Million Medical Malpractice Verdict to Man Who Lost Leg

A Rhode Island jury awarded $40 million to a 62-year-old man who lost his right leg due to severe blood clotting after doctors erroneously told him to stop taking blood thinners.

The award will increase to $62 million with interest for Plaintiff Peter Sfameni of North Providence. He has a genetic blood-clotting disorder that requires him to take blood thinners. Doctors at Rhode Island Hospital kept him off the thinners for 16 days for a biopsy, causing life-threatening blood clots in his legs and lungs.

Doctors administered high doses of anticoagulants, but it was too late to save his right leg, which developed gangrene.

The plaintiff was 55 years old when he went to the hospital in December 2010, complaining of pain in his lower back, fatigue, and weight loss. The physicians at the hospital advised him to stop taking his blood thinners so that a diagnostic colonoscopy could be performed to rule out lymphoma.

By the time the man returned to the hospital two days later, he had been off of his blood thinners for ten days. He was determined to be hyper-coagulated at that time and was admitted to the hospital. Afer a bone-marrow biopsy was done, one of the doctors at the hospital recommended that he resume talking blood thinners, but the order was canceled. Sfameni was discharged with instructions to stay off of blood thinners until a second biopsy, which was scheduled for six days later.

Following a two-week trial before Superior Court Judge Kristin Rodgers, the jury held that Drs. John M. Ryan and Eric S. Winer were negligent in treating Sfameni.

PA Judge Upholds $10 Million Verdict in Medical Malpractice Case

Luzerne County, PA, Court of Common Pleas Judge Lesa Gelb denied a medical clinic’s motion to appeal a $10 million medical malpractice verdict where two doctors failed to diagnose a teenage patient with a severely infected cyst.

Last May a jury awarded damages for past and future suffering, embarrassment, humiliation, disfigurement and loss of enjoyment of life for Joseph Shimko of Nanticoke, PA, who was 17 when he visited the clinic with his mother.

He came to the clinic complaining of a possible hemorrhoid, but the doctors did not examine him. Now 21, Shimko developed complex pilonidal disease, which required aggressive treatment and eight surgeries, leaving him with permanent disfigurement and lifelong problems.

The jury found that the Geisinger Clinic and physicians Stephen Evans, D.O. and Christian Basque, M.D. were negligent because they failed to properly treat Shimko and misdiagnosed him on two separate occasions over a 14-month period.

“It’s been a long road for Joe Shimko and we are thrilled the jury took into account what he’s been through and how he will suffer from this malpractice for the rest of his life,” said Attorney Melissa Scartelli of Scartelli Olszewski, P.C., lead counsel for the plaintiff. She was assisted by her law partner, Peter Paul Olszewski, Jr.

Scartelli Olszewski, P.C., of Scranton, PA, was founded in 2001 and handles personal injury and wrongful death cases for medical malpractice victims.

PA Jury Awards $3.35 Million against Hospital and Docs for Missed Cancer Diagnosis

A jury in Philadelphia awarded $3.35 million in damages in a medical malpractice case against St. Mary Medical Center and two radiologists over a missed cancer diagnosis.

Because the cancer was overlooked, plaintiff Ewa Kesicka, 54, of Bensalem, PA, was later diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer and forced to have painful and invasive surgeries that would not have been necessary, according to her attorney Rob Ross of Ross Feller Casey in Philadelphia.

The jury found that Dr. Roy M. Prager and Dr. Paul J. Weiser were negligent in 2012 and 2013 when they failed to diagnose the breast cancer despite multiple mammograms showing suspicious deposits, or calcifications.

Stage 3 cancer means the breast cancer has extended to beyond the immediate region of the tumor and may have invaded nearby lymph nodes and muscles.

The delay in treatment also increases the chances the woman’s cancer may return, attorney Ross told the Courier Times. “Now every day of her life she has to worry about when and if this cancer is going to come back.”

Kesicka had regular mammograms since 2009 when another doctor first noticed suspicious calcifications. However, Dr. Weiser viewed a series of mammograms in 2012 and 2013 and determined the growths were benign. Both times he merely recommended an annual follow up. Dr. Prager wrote in 2012, “there is no mammographic evidence of malignancy,” the suit said.

However, when meeting with a gynecologist in 2013, Kesicka noted a lump in her armpit. The doctor found another in her breast and ordered tests that revealed the woman had stage 3 breast cancer.

Jury Awards $1.2 Million to Patient Injured During Spinal Surgery

A Washington state jury returned a $1.2 million verdict against Dr. Michael Thomas of Cascade Neurosurgical Associates for negligently performing a spinal surgery in 2011 that left his patient with a severe spinal deformity for three years before it was finally corrected by a second surgery.

The plaintiff, Emily Daley, 42, suffered from scoliosis since she was a teenager, but her back pain became insufferable in the summer of 2011. Dr. Thomas performed scoliosis surgery on Daley in July 2011 to assist with her pain. While the surgery initially provided some pain relief, according to testimony by medical experts during trial, Thomas’ substandard care and lack of adequate follow-up left Daley with severe, chronic pain, and left her spine in a forward and left leaning position.

After obtaining care from numerous providers and consulting with several local spine surgeons for more than three years, Daley’s forward and left lean was ultimately corrected in an August 2014 operation performed by Dr. Lawrence Lenke, an internationally renowned spine surgeon who was then practicing in St. Louis and is now in New York, New York.

According to Felix Luna, an attorney from Peterson Wampold Rosato Feldman Luna who, together with Tomás Gahan, tried the case on behalf of Mrs. Daley, the years between the botched surgery in 2011 and the 2014 procedure that resolved the problem were extraordinarily difficult for her.

Passed out from pain

“When I first met Emily, we were sitting and talking when the pain in her back became so severe that she passed out,” Luna said. “That was not uncommon and was the reality of her life, day in and day out, for more than three years.” Luna also stated that “Emily, her family, and our firm are all deeply appreciative to the jury for their thoughtful consideration of this case.”

Court records show that this was the first jury award for a plaintiff in a medical negligence case in Yakima, Washington, in many years, and according to Luna, underscores the severity of Daley’s injuries and the substandard care that she received.

“We hope this verdict leads to safer practices for future patients, by showing surgeons that they must always adhere to the standard of care.” Emily Daley agreed, stating that “I really hope this verdict helps to protect other patients in the future.”

Peterson Wampold Rosato Feldman Luna was founded in 1973 as a plaintiff’s personal injury firm as well as appellate, commercial litigation, insurance bad faith, construction accidents, and medical malpractice.