This year has been a busy one for the medical malpractice attorneys at Weitz & Luxenberg, headed by attorney Allan Zelikovic. Since 1990 when the unit was first established, Weitz & Luxenberg’s Medical Malpractice team has worked on more than 1,000 lawsuits dealing with substandard medical care and dangerous drugs or devices.
“Although there are many wonderful, skilled and caring physicians practicing in the U.S., there are others who do not put their patients first,” declared Zelikovic. “They end up using broken equipment, missing diagnoses, or making surgical errors. Unfortunately, these types of mistakes are often fatal. In these cases especially, the patients’ families deserve to be compensated for their loss.”
Recovery of $4.5 Million in Wrongful Deaths of Two Single Mothers
During 2013, our team sought and received justice for the children of 2 single mothers in their 30s who suffered wrongful deaths. In the first case, the decedent had been the single mother of a young child. She supported herself and her daughter by working as a human resources administrator for a cerebral palsy association. Her death occurred several months after her diagnosis with Still’s disease, a rare form of arthritis. The treatment chosen by her doctors involved the administration of steroids.
Around Thanksgiving, she went to a Brooklyn hospital exhibiting signs of pancreatitis. Inexplicably, she was discharged without getting a CT scan or a diagnosis. The following day, the woman was rushed by ambulance to another hospital. Although diagnosed with acute pancreatitis, she was ignored for hours. During that time she had seizures and went into a coma due to sepsis. She continued to decline, began respiratory failure and died the next day. Her family sued for wrongful death and the case was settled for $2.35 million.
In the second case, another single mother in her 30s underwent a tonsillectomy performed by an ear, nose, and throat doctor. Approximately 10 days later, she went to an ER complaining that she could not swallow and her throat hurt. The ER determined she was dehydrated, admitted her to the hospital and treated her with antibiotics, IV fluids and pain medication for three days. The doctor released the woman, even though she was still complaining of the same problems. She died within 48 hours from a loss of blood because her surgical wound ruptured.
The doctor was sued by Weitz and Luxenberg on behalf of the young son on the grounds that the postoperative care was negligent and the woman died due to medical malpractice. The case was settled for $2.2 million.
Faulty Equipment Contributes to Death and Costs Surgeon $1.2 Million
Another woman in her 30s went to a plastic surgeon’s Manhattan outpatient facility for a $10,000 tummy tuck. Two days later, she had a pulmonary embolism and was quickly taken to the ER. Five days later she was dead.
During surgery, hospitals normally utilize a piece of medical equipment specifically designed to prevent blood from pooling in the legs in order to prevent the development of deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism. In this case the patient was diagnosed as having succumbed to pulmonary emboli, so the attorneys at Weitz & Luxenberg made a request to examine the machine in question and for access to its purchasing records. Inexplicably, the machine and all records relating to its purchase seemingly disappeared.
A former employee and partner of the surgeon testified that the surgeon admitted to them that he intentionally discarded the machine after the patient’s death. He was concerned that he would be criticized for utilizing a device that may not be certified and one that he bought used on the internet. The family of this mother of two successfully sued her plastic surgeon and the case was settled for $1.2 million.
Undisclosed Diagnosis Results in $1.1 Million Settlement
In another wrongful death case, Weitz & Luxenberg was contacted by the family of a 70-year-old man who died due to the failure of his gastroenterologist to disclose the diagnosis of colon cancer for more than one year.
The man underwent a colonoscopy in 2007. Although a biopsy taken at the time was positive for colon cancer, the patient was told that the results were normal. He was treated 25 times over the next 17 months at the same group by his primary care physician, among others. The man finally learned of his diagnosis in March 2009 when he went to the ER complaining of abdominal pains and weight loss. He was admitted and died of complications relating to treatment of his stage IV colon cancer.
An expert oncologist witness retained by Weitz & Luxenberg stated that the cancer was in stage I when it was initially found. Treatment for stage I colon cancer only requires surgical intervention, not even chemotherapy. If he had been treated when the cancer was initially discovered, the man might have had a better outcome and lived a longer life. The case was settled for $1.1 million for wrongful death.
Lucky to Have Survived Receives $500,000 for Injuries
In a case against a Queens hospital, Weitz & Luxenberg helped a woman whose uterus was damaged receive a settlement of $500,000. The liability involved a delay in diagnosing a uterine infection, secondary to an intrauterine device, which now required several surgeries to repair.
The case involved a young home health care aide and mother of two who came to the ER complaining of abdominal pain and bloating. Without performing any tests or obtaining a gynecological consult, and ignoring the IUD implant recorded in her medical history, she was discharged with a benign diagnosis of food poisoning.
Ten days later she reported to the ER at another Queens hospital, where doctors determined that she had a pelvic inflammatory disease secondary to a misplaced IUD. The woman was admitted and the IUD was removed. Since she was not responding well enough to the antibiotics, a gynecological surgeon recommended exploratory surgery. Intra-operatively the surgeon decided to remove the infected tissue from her abdomen. Despite the fact that he found that the infected tissue was adherent to one of her ureters (the tube that connects a kidney to the urinary bladder) the doctor cut the ureter not once, but twice, and removed a section of it.
The patient now needed a nephrostomy tube procedure. This involves inserting a tube through a patient’s back to the kidney, providing a means for urine to drain from the body. Since this hospital was not equipped to perform the operation, she was transferred to another. The plan was that the woman would be fitted with a bag to collect urine and in about a year, after she healed, she’d have surgery performed to reconnect the ureter. Unfortunately the patient suffered two horrible complications during this admission: pulmonary emboli and a Clostridium difficile infection.
The woman was eventually discharged and spent an unpleasant year with the nephrostomy tube sticking out of her back. Eventually she had the surgery to repair the ureter but must remain on blood thinners due to the emboli. The case against the hospital where the surgery was performed settled for $500,000. The action against the ER hospital and surgeon is still pending.
“We’re proud of the results we achieved for our clients and their families this year, and hope that the settlements serve as a deterrent so doctors can avoid future cases of medical malpractice,” summarized Zelikovic.