Source: Times Union

CATSKILL - Albany Medical Center Hospital was found liable for the wrongful death of Thomas P. Meehan, the popular town supervisor of Windham who had been re-elected 19 times.

The jury awarded Meehan's family $1.4 million in Greene County Supreme Court on Thursday.

Meehan, 61, a carpenter, went into Albany Med on Nov. 11, 2009, for hip replacement surgery. He was walking and doing physical therapy the day after the surgery, said the family's lawyer, James Linnan, of Linnan & Fallon in Albany.

On Nov. 13 and 14, while still a patient at Albany Med, Meehan had episodes of shortness of breath, elevated heart rate and elevated respiratory rate.

"That is the classic hallmark sign that you might have a pulmonary emboli starting," Linnan said.

Meehan died on Nov. 15. The cause of death was two blood clots in his lungs, Linnan said. He was survived by his wife, Denise, and two adult children.

Linnan argued the doctor overseeing Meehan's care in the hospital, staff physician Dr. Aniko Felligi, ignored the signs and did not order scans that could have revealed the blood clots.

Pulmonary embolism is a blockage in the lungs that is caused by blood clots that travel to the lungs from another part of the body.

"What happens is you get a blood clot in your leg or your pelvis, a typical post-operative complication from hip surgery," Linnan said. "Then little pieces start breaking off and start flowing up the veins and eventually they go through the heart and hit the lung, and the lung can't get oxygen because the lungs' blood vessels are clogged with a blood clot."

Meehan should have been given an anti-coagulant called heparin, Linnan said.

"If he had been put on heparin on the 13th or 14th, the blood clots would not have propagated and they would not have hit his lungs and he would lived," he said. "But the signs and symptoms were totally ignored."

An Albany Med spokeswoman said the hospital does not comment on litigation.

Linnan did not seek a pain and suffering award from the jury in the medical malpractice case since Meehan died almost instantly. "He sat down in a chair, his eyes rolled back in his head, he slumped over and he was nonresponsive," he said.

The $1.4 million award is for economic damages that include Meehan's future earnings and the value of work he may have done around the house. The jury's award was actually higher than the figures Linnan submitted on behalf of Meehan.

John M. Hochfelder, a White Plains lawyer who follows medical malpractice verdicts on his New York Injury Cases Blog, said it was an interesting award.

"I think $1.4 million for economic damages for a 61-year-old carpenter and town supervisor is a pretty significant award, quite frankly," Hochfelder said.

"I think the jury was impressed."

The infant-plaintiff was a 12-year old asthmatic, who had been diagnosed with pediatric asthma by one partner in a two-partner pediatric practice. No one charted in his medical chart at the pediatrician's office that he was asthmatic. Over a period of approximately 18 months, the infant-plaintiff received numerous renewals of asthma medications (inhaled steroids) without visits to the physician's office and without the medications being charted in the infant-plaintiff's chart. During an evening the infant-plaintiff experienced an asthma attack at home and his parents administered several nebulizer treatments.

The following day, the mother took the infant-plaintiff to the pediatrician's office and additional nebulizer treatments were administered. On that day, the infant-plaintiff was treated as a non-asthmatic patient who was suspected of having bronchitis. The infant-plaintiff was discharged from the pediatrician's office to home. In the car, on the way home, the infant-plaintiff suffered another asthma attack. The mother rushed the infant-plaintiff to the nearest health care provider, but, the infant-plaintiff was comatose and severely brain damaged by the time the mother was able to obtain medical care. The infant-plaintiff currently resides in a pediatric nursing home where he is not responsive to light or sound, is maintained on a ventilator, is tube fed and exists in a semi-vegetative state. The infant-plaintiff's condition is permanent and his life expectancy is 20 or more years

The two partners of the pediatric practice had dissolved the partnership prior to trial. One of the partners admitted at deposition that the infant-plaintiff should not have been discharged from the practice following the nebulizer treatments on the date of the incident. The other partner, who wrote the prescriptions for the continually renewed asthma medication, first denied that he had issued such prescriptions and, when confronted with copies of signed prescriptions, admitted that the prescriptions probably should not have been renewed. The case settled approximately one week prior to trial. The infant-plaintiff received $4.5 million, which was placed in a Supplemental Needs Trust to fund his health care. His parents received $500,000 for the loss of the society, love and companionship of their son.

The plaintiff had pre-surgical hypertension for many years. The anesthesiologist did not consider his hypertension when evaluating the plaintiff pre-surgically, or in monitoring the patient during surgery. The anesthesiologist allowed the plaintiff's blood pressure to drop and positioned the plaintiff with his head below the heart. During the surgery, the plaintiff's kidneys shut down and produced very little urine. Defendant failed to recognize that plaintiff's blood pressure was dangerously low, resulting in lack of blood flow to his optic nerve, which resulted in Posterior Ischemic Optic Neuropathy (PION). Pre-surgically, plaintiff was not warned of this potential complication. After four days of trial, and during the plaintiff's expert's testimony, defendants made their first offer in the case. The case eventually settled for $1 million.

A young female veterinarian responded to an ad and went to a LASIK eye clinic. At a "seminar" conducted at the clinic she was advised that she was a candidate for surgery. She was told that she would be able to function without her glasses or contact lens and that this was a "simple" procedure.

Based on the representation from the clinic she went forward with LASIK eye surgery. This resulted in a significant deterioration in her vision that left her with significant vision impairment and a strong probability that she will need cornea transplants in the future.

Linnan & Fallon prosecuted the case through two weeks of trial wherein nationally known experts testified that the clinic had performed an inadequate work-up for her surgery and that the plaintiff was never an appropriate candidate for this type of surgery. While the jury was deliberating we were able to negotiate a significant recovery to compensate her for the damages caused, and to provide funds for cornea transplant surgery in the future.

A 23-year-old female advised her primary health care provider that, during a normal self exam, she had discovered a small, pea size lump in the outer portion of her left breast. She was advised that she was "too young to have cancer" and told not to worry. The lump continued to grow and doubled in size. She returned to her primary health care provider and was again advised not to worry, that she was too young to be concerned with breast cancer. Two months later, the patient returned to her health care provider and was examined by a different practitioner who immediately referred the plaintiff to a surgeon. The lump had spread and the cancerous mass that was removed resulted in a diagnosis of advanced Stage IV cancer.

The case proceeded to trial in Warren County Supreme Court and after three weeks of trial, including the presentation of numerous expert witnesses in women's health care, oncology and pathology, the plaintiff settled the matter for $1.1 million.

A 45-year-old female visited her local hospital's mammography center for her annual mammogram. The patient had been receiving annual mammograms for several years at the same facility. The mammogram revealed that the plaintiff had a questionable spot in her left breast and that an immediate biopsy was necessary. The mammography center claimed that the report was electronically forwarded to the plaintiff's primary care provider and a copy was mailed to the same clinic. When the plaintiff inquired of her primary care doctor's office, she was informed that if there were any bad news she would be advised.

One year later, when the plaintiff returned to her primary care doctor for her annual physical, a new doctor determined that the plaintiff had never been advised of the results of the mammogram. In addition, the plaintiff had never been advised that she needed an immediate biopsy. The biopsy was ordered and the plaintiff was diagnosed with Stage III cancer. The patient underwent a radical mastectomy and endured both chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

A medical malpractice lawsuit was instituted against the plaintiff's primary health care provider for failure to follow up and obtain the mammogram results; against the local hospital for failing to have a proper reporting service; and, against the radiologist at the mammogram center for failure to notify plaintiff's primary care doctor of the need for follow-up treatment. Prior to trial, the primary care doctors admitted their liability and agreed to pay $725,000.

Subsequently, the local hospital settled for $200,000. A trial was then commenced against the radiologist and the radiology group. After plaintiff presented evidence during one and one-half weeks of trial, the radiologist and the radiology group agreed to settle for $425,000. The result was a total recovery of $1.35 million for the plaintiff.

A 34-year-old male, married and the father of two young children, was admitted to a hospital for a hemorrhoidectomy. A surgeon removed three external and two internal hemorrhoids and the plaintiff was placed in the post-surgical ward for observation and recovery. While in the post-surgical ward, the plaintiff went at least nine hours without any nursing staff checking on his status. During the shift change, a new nurse found the plaintiff in advanced septic shock and advised the plaintiff's surgeon. The plaintiff's surgeon phoned in an order for medication to stabilize the plaintiff's blood pressure but did nothing to address the plaintiff's underlying septic condition. Approximately 24 hours after surgery, the plaintiff was seen by an infectious disease specialist who administered various antibiotics. These efforts were unsuccessful and the plaintiff died of the effects of septic shock 38 hours after surgery.

The New York Medical Malpractice case proceeded to trial before a jury in Columbia County Supreme Court. The patient's family recovered a total of $3.6 million for the patient's pain and suffering, wrongful death and future lost earnings.