Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.

Surgical error case goes to Pennsylvania Supreme Court

A number of years ago, a Pennsylvania woman died shortly after undergoing heart valve surgery. Though a wrongful death action was pursued by the husband of the woman that died, a jury decided that the hospital and doctor were not negligent concerning her case.

Though this would usually be the end of the matter, the attorneys for the husband continued pursuing this matter all the way up to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has since ordered a new trial in the matter because of some apparent problems with the seating of the jury.

Apparently, the jury had determined that the doctor involved in the surgery was negligent, but the negligence was not the cause of the female patient's death. However, it was noted by a lawyer in the case that certain jury members had been switched at some point without the knowledge of the judge or of the parties involved in the lawsuit.

It's debatable as to whether this switch in jury members actually affected the outcome of this case. However, since medical malpractice cases are so dependent upon the facts of how surgery or treatment is conducted, it is essential that the jury members be present for all testimony and deliberations in the case - which apparently did not occur regarding this matter.

It's especially noteworthy that the jury decided negligence occurred, but it did not affect the outcome of the case. Why a jury would come to this sort of determination is of utmost importance. Patients should not die after a surgery unless the risks of not having the surgery far outweigh having the surgery, or when it's the kind of surgical procedure that happen to be routine.

These sorts of questions cannot be decided when there are irregularities regarding the individuals that ultimately are to decide the case.

Source: The Pennsylvania Record, "Pa. Supreme Court, citing juror irregularities, orders new trial in Phila. med mal death case," by Jon Campisi, Dec. 21, 2012

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