Articles Posted in Hospital Negligence

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Opioid addiction can have deadly consequences for a patient. If you or a loved one has been hurt or someone you love has passed away due to an opioid overdose, you may have legal rights. At DeFrancisco & Falgiatano Personal Injury Lawyers, our Syracuse medical malpractice lawyers can examine your case and help you understand your rights.

There has been a lot of speculation around singer Prince’s death. Based on a criminal investigation, it is believed that Prince died as a result of overdosing on what he believed were prescription opioids such as Vicodin, but were actually the black market version of these drugs, containing the much more powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl. Investigators could not figure out where Prince may have gotten these counterfeit drugs and, as a result, did not charge anyone in the death.

Prince’s family, however, recently filed a malpractice lawsuit against a hospital in Illinois that treated Prince’s first opioid overdose a week before his death. The lawsuit states that Prince’s death was a “direct and proximate cause” of the hospital failing to appropriately diagnose and treat the overdose. The lawsuit also claims that the hospital failed to investigate the cause of the overdose and provide proper counseling. In addition, the family is suing Walgreens, alleging that the pharmacy dispensed narcotic prescription medications to the pop star.

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Medical professionals at hospitals are expected to provide competent care to each patient. Unfortunately, this does not always happen. If you or someone close to you was injured due to hospital negligence, you may be entitled to compensation for your harm. At DeFrancisco & Falgiatano Personal Injury Lawyers, our seasoned Syracuse hospital negligence attorneys can thoroughly examine the facts of your case and determine the viability of your claim. For many years, we have helped New York clients resolve their medical malpractice claims, and we can help you as well.

Hospital negligence is much more common than you may think. In 1999, the Institute of Medicine reported that up to 98,000 people a year die because of mistakes in hospitals. In 2010, the Office of Inspector General for Health and Human Services found that inadequate hospital care contributed to the deaths of 180,000 patients in Medicare alone in a given year. A study by the Journal of Patient Safety estimated that in 2014, between 210,000 and 440,000 patients who went to the hospital for care suffered some type of preventable harm that contributed to their death.

Doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals at a hospital play a critical role in a patient’s treatment and recovery. Any medical professional working at a hospital may be responsible for a hospital error. Some examples of these errors include but are not limited to:

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Medical malpractice lawsuits require that hospitals, medical professionals, and other named defendants disclose their medical records so that a plaintiff can make a case for negligence. This most frequently occurs during the pre-trial stages of litigation. Although courts prefer that litigants navigate this process without judicial intervention, sometimes litigation disputes emerge as to what should be disclosed to the plaintiff. This is happening in a medical negligence case in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky, in which the court compelled the hospital to disclose emails related to an experimental surgery performed on the plaintiff. While this case does not affect New York hospital malpractice cases, it illustrates some of the practical issues that may arise.

The plaintiff alleged in the original lawsuit that a hospital surgeon performed an experimental bariatric surgery on a mentally disabled patient without his consent. The complaint alleged that the defendant surgeon performed bariatric surgery on the plaintiff in 2009, causing the plaintiff to begin experiencing respiratory issues. He began experiencing other complications and underwent a subsequent surgery to reverse the bariatric surgery procedure. During this reversal surgery, the surgeons allegedly discovered that the defendant surgeon had not properly performed a bariatric procedure. The complaint that was actually performed was an experimental one, which was conducted, according to the complaint, without the patient’s consent. The plaintiff’s claims survived a pre-trial motion for dismissal earlier in the month. However, after this ruling, the judge was asked to rule on the admissibility of several emails into evidence.

The emails in question were between hospital personnel. The court ruled in favor of the plaintiff and admitted the emails into evidence because they were not, as the defendant claimed, protected by the work-product doctrine or attorney-client privilege. Another string of emails, however, was ruled to be protected and inadmissible.

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During a stay in the hospital after the birth of an infant in New York, mothers are often encouraged to rest as much as possible and allow nurses and doctors to help them recuperate from labor. The setting should provide a safe environment for the baby’s first few days of life. Careful monitoring and support from hospital staff and medication to assist with recovery are often critical for new parents.

An infant in Oregon was recently removed from life support 10 days after he was born, and his mother has filed a negligence suit against the hospital where she gave birth. She is claiming that a nurse should not have left her newborn in the bed with her when she was too heavily medicated to remain alert. Her baby suffocated in her arms while she slept.

The infant was resuscitated, stabilized and taken to a neonatal intensive care unit, where he was placed on life support. According to the lawsuit, in addition to the trauma of his time without oxygen, the baby sustained broken ribs during the CPR performed by a doctor. The mother alleges that the delay in response from the staff at the hospital contributed to the catastrophic brain damage her son suffered. She is also suing one of the nurses at the hospital where she gave birth.

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Many people experience medical malpractice each year, in a number of forms. In 2012, there were $3.6 billion dollars in payout for medical malpractice suits. You or a loved one may have recently been at a hospital and found that your stay wasn?t as peachy as you hoped, leading to questions: What is hospital negligence? What is the hospital liable for? Can I sue? Should I sue?

 

Cases in which the patient is injured are known as “Vicarious Liability.” Hospitals are public and private corporations and can always be held to the same standard as other entities in that classification. You may have heard horror stories of some types of hospital negligence. Situations such as a tool being left in the body after surgery, a slip and fall on the premises (yes, the hospital is liable!), not having a nurse available to take care of you – all of these are considered hospital negligence.

Let?s run through an example of vicarious liability. You go in for an emergency appendectomy, get checked in, and taken in for surgery. You wake up, and there is no nurse on call. Weeks later, after going through an airport metal detector, you discover a small surgical instrument was left in your stomach. Not only is the hospital vicariously liable for the surgical instrument, but if you are able to prove that there was no nurse available, they are additionally liable for that.

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If a baby dies due to the negligence or misconduct of another person, then they may be held responsible by the family through a wrongful death lawsuit. The family is unable to recover their lost child, but they can attempt to recover compensation from the accused in the form of damages.

A wrongful death lawsuit can only be made by the family of the deceased. A wrongful death lawsuit can come about due to a variety of scenarios. Common scenarios that can lead to this lawsuit include:

  • Death caused by the negligence and or malpractice of medical staff. If the nurses failed to pay attention during birth and their negligence resulted in the baby dying or if the doctor failed to perform a C-section properly.
  • Dangerous or hazardous working conditions. If a medical institution has unsanitary facilities and equipment and the baby dies due to infection then the hospital and staff may be held responsible.
  • If the death occurred due to the crimes of a person, even if he wasn’t trying to cause harm to the deceased, he may be held responsible. For example, a nurse stole medical supplies which resulted in a shortage at the hospital which contributed to complications in birth and the baby’s death. 
  • An effective wrongful death lawsuit needs to have the following elements: 
  • A person must lose their life due to the circumstances involved. A wrongful death lawsuit, of course, cannot take place if no life was lost.
  • The death must be a result of the misconduct, negligence or negative aims of the accused.
  • There must be surviving family of the deceased for a wrongful death lawsuit to take place, as only family members can file the lawsuit.
  • A personal representative must be appointed by the court to handle the distribution of the property and assets of the deceased. 

If a family member or loved one died, and you believe the death was due to negligence or misconduct, then you may have a right to file a claim. In such a case, to help ensure you get the best representation and the best outcome, it would be wise to contact an experienced attorney near you.

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Infections at hospitals can wreak havoc on patient health. So, one would hope instances of hospital-acquired infections would be trending down. Given this, the results of a recent study are something some might find quite discouraging. The results suggest that, when it comes to one particular type of hospital-related infection, not much progress has been made on cutting down on its occurrence over the past decade.

This infection is ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP). This is a type of infection connected to the use of respirators at hospitals. The study looked at data on certain patients to make an estimate of how common of a complication VAP is. It estimates that, among patients who are on a respirator for over 48 hours at acute-care hospitals, around one-tenth end up getting VAP.

The study further suggests that the occurrence rate of this infection has been holding at around this level for at least the past decade. This brings into question some federal data that had pointed to the occurrence of VAP possibly going down. According to the study’s lead author, factors such as: the possibility of reporting bias, variation in reporting standards and the difficultly of detecting VAP are among the things that could have led to the federal data suggesting a decline that wasn’t actually present.

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Instances of a mistaken identity can happen in a lot of different environments. In some contexts, such errors at worse will result in some embarrassment. In others though, such mistakes could be quite harmful. For example, at health care facilities, a misidentification of a patient could seriously endanger the patient’s health.

Recently, an ECRI Institute report looked into patient identity errors. These are mistakes in which one patient is confused with another. The report looked at over 7,600 such errors that were voluntarily reported by health care organizations. These errors came from over 180 organizations. They occurred between January 2013 and July 2015. ECRI officials postulate that these cases likely make up only a small portion of the patient identity mistakes that actually occurred.

While most of the mistakes the report looked at did not result in a patient getting hurt, there were a couple that were fatal and some others that resulted in serious harms.

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Lack of communication or poor communication between doctors and their patients is problematic in a number of ways. It is particularly problematic, though, when the communication failure concerns serious medical or surgical errors. Lack of communication is often the result of the provider’s fear of liability, but lack of communication often results in more willingness to litigate.

This is one reason for the push to increase transparency between patients and their providers. The trend of increasing transparency is one that has even expanded to the federal level, with the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality now promoting new guidelines for hospitals to adopt. The guidelines are premised on saving hospitals money as a result of reducing medical malpractice litigation. 

The program, known as Communication and Optimal Resolution (Candor for short), has federal funding behind it and has been tested at a number of hospitals. The program prescribes the communication of error to the patient and their families within one hour of their occurrence. Providers are advised to keep close contact with patients and their families during the investigation, which is supposed to be completed within a month or two, and to interview them about the occurred. Billing is also placed on hold during an investigation. At the end of the process, hospital staff is supposed to discuss future prevention of such incidents to the patient.

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Last time, we began looking at the Federal Tort Claims Act, under which those harmed by federal health care providers may seek recovery from the federal government. Under the FTCA, the federal government may be held liable in the same way, and to the same extent, as a private hospital or health care provider would be liable.

One difference, though, is that the FTCA does not allow plaintiffs to obtain punitive damages. For those who aren’t familiar with them, punitive damages are not intended to compensate the plaintiff but rather to punish the defendant in a civil context. The damages available to plaintiffs in FTCA claims are limited to compensatory damages, which are the monetary losses stemming from the negligence asserted. 

Another difference is that the federal government is allowed to assert defenses based on immunity that are otherwise available to federal employees, as well as other defenses unique to the federal government. While the FTCA is considered a general waiver of the defense of sovereign immunity, there are some circumstances where a plaintiff may not be entitled to recover damages due to immunity.

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