Case Summaries

Medical Malpractice

Baby death caused by failure to monitor (Allegheny County)

A full-term baby was born with Apgar scores of 7 and 8 but within six hours developed respiratory distress. He was diagnosed with a spontaneous pneumothorax and was transferred to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). He required 100 percent oxygen. He was weaned to room air after approximately 24 hours. After being removed from the oxygen, he began to get fussy, most likely because he was hungry. Approximately 12 hours later, he was found with a very low heart rate. He was blue and not breathing. No alarms had gone off. Attempts were made to resuscitate him but the breathing tube was placed in his stomach instead of his airway. They were unable to resuscitate him, and he died. No monitors were on, and the baby became distressed and suffocated without the nurses knowing. When the baby was discovered, it was too late to revive him.

Baby death after removal of only kidney (Allegheny County)

A pregnant woman had a prenatal ultrasound that showed her baby had a multicystic right kidney and no left kidney. On two subsequent ultrasounds there was a "probable" left kidney. Two subsequent ultrasounds did not visualize a left kidney but still stated probable left kidney.

After birth, the baby was diagnosed with an esophageal fistula and an abdominal obstruction. He was producing urine, and his kidney blood tests were normal. An abdominal ultrasound was ordered but not done. At the time of surgery to repair the fistula and abdominal obstruction, the surgeon observed the multicystic kidney and asked a nephrologist to assess the status of the kidney. The nephrologist told the surgeon that the kidney was not functioning and the surgeon removed the kidney.

Postoperatively, the baby became unstable and an ultrasound revealed that he had no left kidney. The surgeon had surgically removed his only functioning kidney; since dialysis was not an option, he died several days later.

Baby injury in neonatal intensive care unit (Allegheny County)

Twin girls were born prematurely at 30 weeks of gestation. After being resuscitated, they were transferred to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Approximately four hours after birth, Twin A was found to have an injury to her left index finger. This had not been present at birth. The injury developed into a large scar and after discharge from the hospital, the injured baby went to her pediatrician who ordered an X-ray. The X-ray showed a fractured proximal interphalangeal joint on her left index finger. In spite of surgery to repair the joint, the finger is permanently shorter than the other fingers and has no motion in the PIP joint. This injury occurred when the baby was in the complete control of the hospital personnel.

Failure to repair abdominal aortic aneurysm (Allegheny County)

A 65-year-old man was experiencing abdominal and flank pain and went to the emergency room. A CT scan showed a 10 cm abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA). He was life-flighted to a tertiary care center for vascular surgery. On arrival, another CT scan confirmed the AAA. Despite the man having no risk factors for coronary artery disease, the vascular surgeon ordered an expedited cardiac consultation. The consultation did not take place until 12 hours later and the cardiologist recommended an adenosine SPECT stress test that could not be done for two days. The following day the aneurysm ruptured requiring emergency surgery. Because the surgery was done emergently, he developed ischemic bowel resulting in short gut syndrome, acute tubular necrosis, pneumonia, sacral decubitus ulcer, abdominal wound infection and sepsis, and he also suffered an anoxic brain injury. He died several weeks later.

Failure to inform and treat after abnormal kidney function studies resulting in a kidney transplant (Allegheny County)

A 46-year-old man went to the hospital for a breathing problem. During his hospitalization, blood work was done that showed that his kidney function levels were very high indicating poor kidney function. The attending doctor did not notify him of these results or follow up on them.

Six months later he was to undergo a CT scan with contrast, and blood tests were done prior to the CT scan. These tests revealed that his kidney function levels were even higher than they had been six months prior. Despite treatment, the kidney damage was so severe that he ultimately required and received a kidney transplant.

Failure to diagnose and treat chickenpox pneumonia with antiviral medication resulting in a leg amputation. Antibiotics not effective. (Mercer County)

A 20-year-old man went to the emergency room with complaints of chest pain, breathing difficulties and a rash. He had been exposed to a niece with chickenpox. An X-ray revealed pneumonia. An arterial blood gas showed that he was compensating for his poor breathing. The emergency room physician diagnosed him with chickenpox and pneumonia. He was given antibiotics and sent home.

The following day he returned to the emergency room with complaints of getting worse. His breathing rate and heart rate were even higher than the day before but no further testing was done, and he was sent home.

The following day his breathing became worse and his left leg became cool and pale. Upon returning to the ER, his oxygen level was very low and his left leg had no pulses below the knee. The patient was diagnosed with chickenpox pneumonia and an arterial clot in his leg. He was taken for emergency surgery to remove the clot in the artery in his leg. This was unsuccessful, and he was transferred to a tertiary care center. The physicians tried to save his leg but he ultimately required an above the knee amputation of his left leg and partial amputation of his right foot. Given that chickenpox is a virus, the antibiotic he was given for his pneumonia was useless. Antibiotics are only effective for bacterial infections. He should have been given an antiviral medication, acyclovir, not antibiotics. Because he was not given the appropriate treatment for his chickenpox, he suffered a complication of the untreated chickenpox that resulted in his losing his leg.

Failure to properly treat hyponatremia (low sodium) and hypokalemia (low potassium) resulting in central pontine myelinolysis (CPM). (Monongalia County West Virginia)

A 52-year-old man had a near fainting episode in the bathroom and was life-flighted to a University Hospital. In the emergency room he was found to have very low sodium (hyponatremia) and low potassium (hypokalemia) levels. He was also in acute renal failure. He was admitted to the hospital and treated for his low sodium and low potassium. However, his sodium was raised too quickly. He was discharged five days later. Two days after discharge he was having mental confusion, inaudible speech and tremors. He was first taken to a local hospital and then transferred back to the University hospital. He was ultimately diagnosed with central pontine myelinolysis (CPM). CPM is brain damage that is caused by a too rapid correction of sodium. Upon transfer to a rehabilitation facility, he was nonambulatory and nonverbal, and he had no ability to take care of any of his daily needs. He was on a feeding tube. He was discharged from the rehabilitation center after a month of rehabilitation. He has long-term cognitive deficits and is on Social Security Disability.

Antibiotic therapy resulting in anaphylactic reaction and shock with brain damage (Forest County, Pennsylvania)

A 20-year-old woman was prescribed an antibiotic and, shortly after taking it, she began to develop severe breathing difficulties. She returned home and her companion called 911 and began driving her to the hospital. On the way to the hospital an ambulance met them, and she was not breathing. CPR was initiated, and she was brought to the hospital. She was diagnosed with a severe anaphylactic reaction and was resuscitated at the hospital. However, she suffered a severe anoxic brain injury and is in a "locked in" state and requires 24-hour care.

The patient was historically atopic (allergic to other stimuli). The antibiotic had been found to have a higher risk of severe reaction than other antibiotics but (MANUFACTURER) failed to warn of risk.

Fall resulting from failure to properly support postoperative patient (Allegheny County)

An 80-year-old woman had surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon. Five days after surgery, while being assisted to the bathroom, the nurse's aide failed to properly support the patient, and she fell to the floor opening up the surgical wound. She required emergency surgery to reclose the wound. She also needed to have leeches applied to the wound in order for it to properly heal. She required months of physical therapy and home nursing care.

Failure to diagnose and perform additional testing in breast cancer, prostate cancer and lung cancer

A 49-year-old woman with a family history of breast cancer had a mammogram that showed a mass. The breast cancer was not diagnosed until 18 months later because the physician did not follow up on the suspicious mass. (Mercer County)

A 62-year-old woman with a family history of breast cancer obtained yearly mammograms. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008. However, in looking back at the 2006 and 2007 mammograms, they showed the beginnings of the cancer but the radiologist did not identify them. She had a two-year delay in breast cancer diagnosis resulting in a mastectomy and radiation treatments. (Crawford County)

A 65-year-old man saw a urologist on a yearly basis. PSA levels were done and digital rectal examinations were done. For the first seven years there were no abnormalities in the digital rectal examination. However in 2000, a nodule was detected on the prostate but the urologist did no further testing. This nodule was present for the next three years. A biopsy was finally ordered, and it revealed a Gleason 9 prostate cancer. Gleason 9 is cancer with a poor prognosis. The patient underwent a prostatectomy and a clinical trial of chemotherapy. (Allegheny County)

A 54-year-old man had a CT scan of the chest for symptoms of pain and a productive cough. The CT scan showed a lung mass. A biopsy revealed lung cancer. The patient underwent radiation treatments and subsequent removal of the lung mass. The surgeon recommended to the patients PCP to have him be seen by an oncologist for follow-up radiation treatments. However, the surgeon did not advise the patient of this nor did he refer him to an oncologist. A year later a CT scan showed another lung mass. This was biopsied three months later, and the biopsy revealed a recurrence of his lung cancer. He required additional radiation treatments. (Allegheny County)

Brain damage due to cardiac arrest from bleeding as a result of laceration of the aorta during surgery (Armstrong County)

A 38-year-old man underwent a laparoscopic Nissen fundoplication to treat his severe gastroesophageal reflux. During the surgery, an arterial branch of the aorta began to bleed profusely. The surgeon decided to convert to an open procedure and called another surgeon to help him with the bleeding vessel. Upon opening the patient's abdomen, there were 10 ounces of blood and clots of blood. After clearing the blood and clots, the bleeding stopped. The surgeons did not ligate or clip the vessel that had been bleeding. They only applied pressure and put on Avitene, a surgical type of collagen. A drain was also placed at the site. He was given several blood transfusions.

Early the following morning, the patient complained of severe spasms in his abdomen. The drain had a lot of blood in it and his heart rate was very high, and he was unresponsive. He was taken back to the operating room and the site that had bled during the first operation was bleeding again. During the surgery to repair this bleeding site, the patient went into cardiac arrest. He was resuscitated but he suffered permanent brain damage as a result of the massive blood loss and cardiac arrest.

Although laceration of the aorta is a known complication of the fundoplication procedure, the surgeons did not properly repair the laceration, and this resulted in permanent brain damage.

Social Security Disability

After a car accident destroyed his career, our 52-year-old client applied for Social Security Disability benefits. He was denied on the basis that his back and shoulder problems and resulting depression were not disabling. The claimant turned to the law firm of Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C., for help. Our Social Security Disability attorney recognized that the claimant's injuries, including a hip replacement, left shoulder surgery and numbness in the claimant's fingers, as well as the depression resulting from his inability to perform the work that he had done for years, certainly met the requirements for disability under the rules. By advocating for the client, we were able to have the case awarded after a hearing before an administrative law judge. The claimant not only won his case, but also was able to repay the public assistance office for benefits he had received during that time.

A 61-year-old laborer for a manufacturing firm was injured on the job and turned to the law firm of Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C., for help. The law firm won the claimant worker's compensation benefits and also won a Social Security Disability claim without the necessity of a hearing only three months after the claimant applied. The claimant was unable to continue working as a laborer due to the injuries to his lower back he sustained at work, which resulted in numbness in his legs and several back surgeries. After quickly gathering the evidence, the claimant's file was placed before the administrative law judge with a strong legal argument for a pre-hearing review, which resulted in a quick award for the claimant.

A 42-year-old computer-aided drafting and designer from Pittsburgh suffered from significant heart problems, which resulted in fluid retention and muscle wasting. The Social Security Administration denied benefits to the client at the initial level. The client sought representation from the law firm of Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C. Our Social Security lawyers quickly evaluated the claim, collected the medical evidence necessary and addressed the legal issues to put the claim in a winning position. By aggressively representing the claimant at the hearing and going toe to toe with the vocational expert, we were able to successfully obtain benefits on behalf of the claimant.

A 38-year-old home health aide was unable to continue her work due to the symptoms of chronic emphysema and bronchitis. The claimant had difficulty breathing when she moved around, and when she was exposed to fumes, dust, gases and poor ventilation. The claimant was awarded benefits based on the hard work and forward thinking legal analysis of the law firm of Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C. The claimant, a widow, was also able to receive benefits based on her late husband's Social Security number. The claimant resides in Charleroi and collects two Social Security checks as a result of the efforts of the law firm.

A 56-year-old individual, who suffered a traumatic brain injury resulting in problems in memory loss, confusion and dizziness, lost a claim for Social Security benefits when trying to get the benefits without representation. However, once he contacted the law firm of Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C., medical evidence was collected which established the severity of the claimant's illness according to the regulations. The claimant was ultimately awarded Social Security Disability benefits after a video teleconferencing hearing with a judge from Baltimore, Maryland. The claimant was in danger of losing his house when he sought the representation of Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C. Due to the efforts of his lawyers, the claimant never lost his home and continues to collect benefits.

Diabetes and diabetic neuropathy ended the working days of a 46-year-old claimant from Johnstown, Pennsylvania, as a restaurant cashier and host. During the course of litigation, the claimant also suffered from a heart attack and required heart catheterization with a placement of stents. Because of these conditions, the claimant suffered from significant problems controlling his blood sugar, problems with neuropathy of his feet and hands and problems with his vision. The claimant also had trouble with walking and other types of exertion. After being denied by the Social Security Administration, the claimant sought representation from the law firm of Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C. Our Social Security team collected the medical evidence and attended the hearing with the claimant. After aggressively defending the claimant's position before the administrative law judge, our lawyers were able to establish that there was no work the claimant could do ensuring that he was found disabled. Because of our efforts, he was paid Social Security Disability benefits.

A 31-year-old massage therapist alleged disability as a result of arthrodesis of the left foot and hip. She had difficulty with walking and standing and also suffered through a series of surgical procedures in an attempt to correct her problem. She was ultimately awarded after a hearing with an administrative law judge due to the astute representation of the law firm of Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C. The claimant, from New Castle, Pennsylvania, continues to receive a monthly benefit check because of the firm's efforts.

The law firm of Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C., represents minor children in Social Security cases. Our client, a 2-year-old child from Glassport, Pennsylvania, suffers from cystic fibrosis. The complications from this illness cause daily mucus buildups requiring home treatments from her mother including percussion therapy. These treatments required her mother to quit her job in order to care for this child on a full-time basis. The family, unable to keep their home on one income, was forced to leave the Pittsburgh area. Not only did the law firm of Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C., represent this child and provide her with ongoing benefits and health care coverage, but also they assisted the mother in receiving a stipend as the sole caregiver for the child. This allowed the family to purchase a new home and improve the child's chances of survival. The law firm of Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C., made a huge difference in the life of this child and her family.

Motor Vehicle Accidents

City worker catapulted from bucket truck — settlement of $1.65 million

Pedestrian, respiratory therapist struck in crosswalk — settlement of $750,000