Surgeons using a surgical stapler during a procedure.

Surgical Stapler Errors

A recent report issued by the ECRI Institute names the misuse of surgical staplers as the top health technology hazard, trumping other common hazards such as sterile processing errors. The ECRI went on to say that substantial injuries, including death, result from the surgical stapler errors every year. Injury can occur not only from the misuse of the medical instruments but also as a result of defects in the products themselves. 

The FDA reports that close to 110,000 surgical stapler incidences since 2011. These incidences resulted in 412 deaths and 11,181 serious injuries. If you were injured due to misuse of a surgical stapler, you may be able to bring a medical malpractice claim seeking compensation for the harm you have suffered. If you were injured due to the malfunction of a surgical stapler, you may be able to recover compensation under a products liability claim.

What Injuries Are Being Caused by Surgical Stapler Errors?

Surgical staplers work very much like the ones that sit on office desks across the country, except they are used to close wounds and surgical openings. The staple acts as a substitute for needing to hand stitch or suture incisions and openings. Unfortunately, we all know what it is like to use a stapler and have it not work. Staplers can jam or fail to close the staples so what you are stapling is securely fastened. These same errors can occur with surgical staplers.

While some surgical stapler errors are the result of human error, many are due to the stapler itself malfunctioning. In fact, the risk of stapler malfunction has been known by stapler manufacturers for a very long time, but they have been less than forthcoming with doctors and medical facilities about these problems. Surgical stapler errors can have devastating consequences. Complications from such errors may include:

  • Internal bleeding
  • Sepsis
  • Internal organ damage
  • Death

A surgical stapler failure can often take days to identify which makes the likelihood of permanent damage more likely to occur. Sometimes the complications may require a permanent need for an ostomy bag or indefinite digestive issues. There may also be the need for additional problems to address the complications caused by the surgical stapler error.

The type and severity of the damage caused by a surgical stapler error will greatly depend on the location and nature of the error. Errors near sensitive areas, such as vital organs, can have tragic consequences. Internal organs can hemorrhage, causing internal bleeding and organ damage. A misfired staple can become unintendedly embedded in tissues or organs. If a staple fails to completely close or properly seal a wound, infection or sepsis can be the result of bacteria entering the wound. 

All of these injuries are caused by negligence in the use of the surgical stapler, or in the manufacturing of the product itself.

Contact Our Medical Malpractice Attorneys Today

If you have been injured by a surgical stapler, come discuss your options with the dedicated injury attorneys at Cooper Schall & Levy. We will talk to you about legal options to explore so that you can be compensated for your injuries and other losses. Contact us today.

Female lab employee examining MRSA bacteria.

Pennsylvania Clinic Being Sued by Patient Due to MRSA Outbreak

Doctors, nurses, healthcare professionals and healthcare facilities have a duty of care they owe to the patients they serve. This duty includes a level and quality of care that a similarly situated and located facility or medical professional would provide under similar circumstances. Failure to uphold this duty of care and having it directly result in harm to a patient or patients is considered medical negligence under the law. Those injury victims have the right to seek compensation through a medical malpractice claim, for the harm they have suffered due to that negligence.

Why Patients Are Suing a Pennsylvania Clinic for an MRSA Outbreak

Seven patients who were treated for chronic pain by Dr. Joseph M. Thomas at Tri-State Pain Institute in Erie, PA are suing the physician and practice for medical malpractice. The lawsuit alleges that unsafe injection practices caused an MRSA outbreak within the clinic. MRSA, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus, is a bacterium that causes infections in various parts of the body. It is notoriously resistant to the more commonly used antibiotics, which makes it difficult to treat. In most cases, MRSA can be treated effectively, but it can sometimes prove to be life-threatening.

MRSA begins with swollen red bumps that are painful and may be warm to the touch. There may also be a fever associated with having these swollen red bumps. In some cases, these bumps can quickly devolve into deep abscesses requiring surgical draining. MRSA sometimes stays within the confines of the skin, but can sometimes go deeper into the body causing infections in bones, joints, the bloodstream, surgical wounds and vital organs.

The lawsuits against Tri-State Pain Institute and Dr. Thomas were filed between March 2018 and September 2019. Health officials confirmed that eight cases of MRSA and one suspected case of MRSA occurred in patients who went to Tri-State between September 21s and September 27, 2017, to receive steroid injections. Upon investigation of the MRSA outbreak, both state and local health departments uncovered several issues regarding Tri-State’s infection control and injection practices. Issues included:

  • Poor hand hygiene compliance
  • Subpar on-site training for infection control
  • Improper reuse of single-use syringes.

Additionally, health department officials discovered that Dr. Thomas failed to report the infections to the proper authorities. Despite this, Pennsylvania’s licensing board has taken no steps regarding any kind of disciplinary action against Dr. Thomas. Both Dr. Thomas and the Tri-State Pain Institute have denied the claims against them in three of the lawsuits. The plaintiffs in these cases allege negligence on the part of Dr. Thomas and Tri-State and request unspecified damages stemming from physical and financial harm suffered due to contracting MRSA.

Medical Malpractice Attorneys

We trust doctors and medical facilities to care for us so that we feel our best. If you have been harmed by negligent medical treatment, the attorneys at Cooper Schall & Levy are here to fight for your legal right to full and fair monetary compensation. Contact us today.

Cooper Schall & Levy gives an overview of damage caps in medical malpractice cases.

Medical Malpractice Damage Caps

Under Pennsylvania law, medical malpractice occurs when a medical professional violates his or her professional duty or standard of care. This is called committing “medical negligence.” The applicable standard of care in these kinds of cases is the generally accepted medical practices of a group of medical professionals in the same geographic region treating patients who suffer from the same or similar illness or injury. In other words, a cardiovascular surgeon in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania would not be subject to the same standard of care as an orthopedic surgeon in Los Angeles, California.

If the breach of the standard of care directly resulted in harm to the patient, the treating medical professional may be held accountable for medical malpractice. A medical malpractice claim allows the injured patient to recover damages. Damages refer to the compensation a plaintiff will receive for the harm they have suffered.

Are there damage caps in Pennsylvania medical malpractice cases?

There are several different types of damages available in medical malpractice cases. Compensatory damages include the economic and non-economic losses suffered by the plaintiff. These kinds of damages are intended to compensate them for the harm they suffered due to the negligence of another. Compensatory damages include:

  • Cost of medical care
  • Cost of future medical care
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of earning capacity
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress

In Pennsylvania, there is no cap on compensatory damages. Plaintiffs are allowed to fully recover any losses they have incurred as a result of medical negligence. This is not the case in many states. Many other states place statutory limits on the recoverable amount of damages in medical malpractice cases. They justify this cap by saying it is intended to discourage plaintiffs from pursuing litigation against medical professionals. Unfortunately, this means that those plaintiffs who have been seriously injured by medical negligence are often unable to fully recover for the harm they have suffered and will likely continue to suffer indefinitely.

It is important to note, however, that, while Pennsylvania does not have a cap on compensatory damages, there is a cap on punitive damages in medical malpractice cases. Punitive damages are not intended to compensate the plaintiff for losses sustained as a result of medical negligence. Instead, punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant. Punitive damages are awarded on top of compensatory damages in an attempt to deter the defendant and others from committing medical negligence. 

Pennsylvania caps punitive damages at 3 times the compensatory damages award. This cap can be waived, however, if the plaintiff can prove that the defendant acted intentionally in causing the harm. An intentional act on the part of the treating medical professional in order to cause harm to the plaintiff, as opposed to negligent action or inaction that resulted in harm to the plaintiff, will allow the plaintiff to circumvent the punitive damages cap.

Medical Malpractice Attorneys

We rely on our treating medical professionals to take care of us. We come to them at our most vulnerable looking for help to get better. If a medical professional’s lapse in his or her duty to provide the level of care you deserve resulted in harm, you have the right to seek compensation by bringing a medical malpractice claim. The dedicated medical malpractice attorneys at Cooper, Schall & Levy are here to hold those medical professionals accountable for the harm they have done and to help see that you are properly compensated for your losses. Contact us today.

Cooper Schall & Levy discusses a recent case where $8.5 million was awarded to a couple in a medical malpractice lawsuit.

$8.5 Million Verdict Awarded to Couple in Medical Malpractice Suit

Medical malpractice injuries often have devastating and lasting consequences. If your health has suffered because a treating medical professional failed to treat you at a standard accepted by other similarly situated health care professionals, then you have a legal right to seek compensation for the damage done by his or her negligence. Medical malpractice victims are entitled to compensation for expenses related to the injury that was the result of the negligent treatment. This means that the victim can recover compensation for both past and future medical expenses, including prescription medication and physical therapy. The victim may also seek compensatory damages for pain and suffering. 

The Couple’s Medical Malpractice Suit

In a recent medical malpractice lawsuit, Germansville couple Robert Kline and his wife recovered an award of $8.5 million dollars against St. Luke’s University Health Network. A Lehigh County jury found that not one, but two of the doctors at St. Luke’s University Health Network had failed to communicate to Mr. Kline that he potentially had a tumor in his bladder.

In 2015, Mr. Kline went to the Allentown campus of St. Luke’s due to pain in his abdomen and right side. Additionally, he had been suffering from urinary problems. This was all explained when a scan revealed kidney stones. The image also showed what had the potential to be a tumor. Court records show that radiologist Dr. Pratik Shukla confirmed that the scan showed a potential tumor in Mr. Kline’s bladder. Neither of Mr. Kline’s treating doctors, Dr. Nguyen and Dr. Stromski, ordered an ultrasound of the bladder after receiving the scan results. Furthermore, they failed to explain the scan to Mr. Kline nor did they let Mr. Kline’s primary care doctor know of the scan results. There was no plan established for follow-up treatment nor were there any referrals to specialists for follow-up studies.

In 2017, Mr. Kline had an ultrasound of his bladder done and it was revealed that he had multiple tumors as well as bladder cancer. Court records reveal that the tumor in the 2015 scan was the same tumor that appeared in the 2017 scan. Mr. Kline asserted that Dr. Nguyen and Dr. Stromski’s failure to make an earlier diagnosis or even bring the potential tumor to his attention not only caused him physical pain, but also caused him emotional pain and substantially lowered his life expectancy. Also, Mr. Kline asserted that the doctors’ oversight ended up requiring him to undergo surgery to remove his bladder and prostate as well as go through chemotherapy.

The jury, which returned its verdict back in August of this year, awarded Mr. Kline and his wife $10 million dollars. They also held, however, that Mr. Kline was 15% responsible. This means the awarded was reduced accordingly and the award came out to be $8.5 million. St. Luke’s denied all allegations of negligence in court documents. The hospital expressed its disappointment in the jury’s conclusion and deemed the award to be a “shockingly high sum.” The St. Luke’s spokesman was unsure as to whether the hospital would appeal the verdict. 

Medical Malpractice Attorneys

Medical malpractice forever alters the lives of the victims. You go to your doctor to help you get better. A doctor’s negligence is not only a betrayal of the trust you have bestowed upon them, but it is a violation of their professional duty to you. If you have been the victim of medical malpractice, the trusted attorneys at Cooper Schall & Levy are here to hold the responsible parties accountable as well as zealously advocate for your right to full and fair compensation. Contact us today.

Cooper Schall & Levy discusses complications caused by retained surgical instruments.

Complications Caused by Retained Surgical Instruments

Going into surgery is a scary experience. The thought of a long recovery can also be overwhelming. Unfortunately, surgery is not the end of the scary experience for some. In certain instances, medical instruments used in the surgery are left inside the person who was operated on. The retained surgical instrument can have serious implications for the health and well-being of the patient. Retained surgical instruments are frequently the basis for medical malpractice claims.

What are some retained surgical instruments?

Think about all of the tools and instruments that are used in surgeries. Without exercising the proper level of care, any of these things could be left behind in the surgical patient. Examples of retained surgical instruments include:

  • Clamps
  • Forceps
  • Gauze
  • Knife blades
  • Needles
  • Safety pins
  • Scalpels
  • Scissors
  • Scopes
  • Sponge
  • Towel
  • Tweezers

Depending on the instrument left behind and where it was left behind, there can be some serious complications associated with the retained surgical instrument. Sometimes, the complications can prove fatal. Other times, the side effects may be mild and the person will not suffer any health complications. However, even if no serious health complications present themselves right away, they may develop and become very serious. For instance, surgical sponges may rot when left inside the surgical patient. This can result in pus and bacteria building up causing life-threatening ulceration. Ulcerations can rupture. The rupturing leads to the infection spreading through the body, resulting in widespread infections.

Sharp objects, such as a blade, needle or scalpel, can end up puncturing organs or blood vessels leading to internal bleeding. The internal bleeding may go unnoticed for too long. Failure to promptly address the internal bleeding can result in an infection, leading to sepsis. Additionally, the internal bleeding may lead to a serious iron deficiency. The bleeding may even prove fatal.

When a retained surgical instrument has been found, additional surgery is usually required. This means more costs, health consequences, and recovery time for the patient. In certain cases, a retained surgical instrument becomes fused with internal body tissues. These tissues and organs will usually need to be removed. In addition to the removal of the retained item, the complications that resulted from the retained surgical instrument will need to be addressed. Any infections will need to be cleared up. Damage caused by the instrument will need to be repaired. 

The patient, in addition to more surgery, may need IV medications and fluids. In some cases, a blood transfusion will be necessary. The patient may also need follow-up care in the form of physical therapy. Even after a retained surgical instrument has been located and addressed, the patient may be left with a permanent disability.

Pennsylvania Medical Malpractice Attorneys

Surgery is scary, it is expensive and it can be a major disruption in your life. Think about those who continue to suffer after all of this due to a retained surgical instrument. The pain, suffering, and the massive financial strain that a victim of this kind of medical malpractice has to cover is tough to fully comprehend. That is why the trusted medical malpractice attorneys at Cooper Schall & Levy relentlessly fight for our clients. They have suffered more than anyone should and we are here to help them move forward. Contact us today.

Cooper Schall & Levy discuss what constitutes as surgical malpractice.

Surgical Malpractice

A Johns Hopkins malpractice study concluded that between the years of 1990 and 2010, approximately 10,000 preventable surgical errors occurred in the U.S. While there are risks to every surgery, some are preventable. These preventable surgical errors often lead to serious and lasting health problems. If the damage that was caused by a surgical error, from either negligent care on the part of your treating medical providers or even systemic negligence on the part of the facility where you were treated, you may have the ability to bring a medical malpractice claim to recoup your losses.

What Constitutes Surgical Malpractice?

Under Pennsylvania law, surgical malpractice occurs when a healthcare professional acts negligently by violating the generally accepted standard of care used by other healthcare professionals in the same field when the surgery was performed. The negligence must be the cause of the patient’s injuries. The negligent act or inaction may be the result of a multitude of factors. Some of the most common factors that contribute to the occurrence of surgical errors include:

  • Technical incompetence or inexperience of the surgeon
  • Lack of communication between the surgeon and other medical professionals or the patient
  • Surgeon fatigue
  • Distraction of the surgeon or other medical professionals
  • Performance of unnecessary surgery

Some examples of surgical errors are:

  • Leaving surgical instruments in the body after surgery (may include things like retractors or sponges)
  • Nicked or punctured internal organs
  • Infection and Sepsis caused by use of unsanitary surgical instruments
  • Nerve damage
  • Medication errors
  • Operation of the wrong surgical site
  • Performing the wrong surgical procedure
  • Performing the surgery on the wrong patient
  • Anesthesia administration errors

It is scary to think about what kind of consequences these errors may have on a patient. Some may even prove fatal. Others may still have indefinite health consequences for the victim. If the injury or health problems suffered by the patient were the result of negligence on behalf of those involved in the surgery such as the surgeon, other healthcare professionals, or the medical institution, you have a right to seek monetary compensation through pursuing a claim for surgical malpractice. If successful in bringing your claim, you will have the right to be compensated for things like:

  • Medical expenses
  • Cost of future medical care
  • Physical therapy
  • Necessary alterations to your lifestyle and home to accommodate any new limitations
  • Past wages
  • Future wages and loss of earning capacity
  • Scarring and disfigurement
  • Emotional distress
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of enjoyment of life

Cooper Schall and Levy has recovered millions of dollars in the form of settlements and verdicts to compensate victims of surgical malpractice. 

Pennsylvania Surgical Malpractice Attorneys

Undergoing surgery is a scary endeavor. While often necessary, putting your health and wellbeing in the hands of others in such a major way causes anxiety for many. If your treating medical professionals have violated their duty to you to provide a certain standard of care, and that violation led to you needlessly suffering, you may be able to bring a medical malpractice claim to seek compensation for that which you have lost. At Cooper Schall & Levy, our dedicated medical malpractice attorneys are here to fight for you. Contact us today.

Cooper Schall & Levy discusses admissibility of surgical risks and complications in negligence cases.

Admissibility of Surgical Risks and Complications in Negligence Cases

Personal injury law involves cases where a person has sustained an injury due to the negligence of someone else. One such type of personal injury case is medical malpractice. Medical malpractice looks at whether a doctor or health care professional exercised the necessary level of care when treating the patient and whether a failure to provide the necessary level of care resulted in harm to the patient. There must be evidence presented as to whether the doctor was negligent and whether that negligent resulted in harm to the patient. Some types of evidence are deemed inadmissible while others are allowed. In a medical negligence case heard by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania Western District, the Court ruled that evidence regarding the risks and complications of surgical procedures can be admissible in negligence cases.

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Rules on Admissibility of Surgical Risks and Complications in Negligence Cases

In the case of Mitchell v. Shikora, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the risks and complications associated with surgical procedures are, in fact, admissible in medical negligence cases. The caveat is that the case may not involve a claim for lack of informed consent. In its decision, the Court asserted that while this evidence may not be used to definitively establish or disprove negligence, it may be used to demonstrate to the jury that complications could arise because of a surgical procedure even when there was no negligence involved. Additionally, the Court stated that this type of evidence might help a jury determine the standard of care for the treating doctor and whether the doctor’s conduct deviated from that standard.

This decision reversed the ruling of the Superior Court and reinstated the trial court’s decision which allowed the evidence. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court made it clear that evidence regarding a surgical procedure’s potential risks and complications is admissible not because it would definitively prove or disprove negligence. Instead, the Court pointed out other ways this type of information may be useful to a jury. The Court was concerned that the preclusion of this kind of evidence may lead a jury to wrongly conclude that a physician guarantees a certain outcome from the procedure. Without evidence about known risks and complications, the jury would not be aware of the fact that the plaintiff may have suffered certain harm even if the doctor had fully complied with the requisite standard of care.

Skilled Legal Advocates for Your Medical Malpractice Claim

This type of ruling has the potential to be a hurdle for plaintiffs bringing medical malpractice claims. At Cooper Schall & Levy we are skilled at overcoming such obstacles and are prepared to fight for you and your right to be fully and fairly compensated for the harm you have sustained as a result of medical malpractice. When you are injured and up against a complicated legal system, we will stand by your side. Contact us today.

Cooper, Schall, & Levy discuss how hospital errors are one of the most common causes of death in the US

Hospital Errors

We often go to hospitals and other medical providers when we are at our most vulnerable. We experience health problems and depend on our treating medical professionals to help us get better. Unfortunately, health problems are all too often either exacerbated or new health problems result from seeking medical treatment. A study by Johns Hopkins revealed that over 250,000 people in the United States die each year due to hospital errors. This number puts hospital error as the third leading cause of death on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) official list. Heart disease and cancer still top the list as each resulted in around 600,000 deaths in 2014 alone.

While the Johns Hopkins study asserts that over 250,000 people die annually from hospital errors, other studies put this number at upwards of 450,000. This is a major discrepancy and it is believed that it is one caused, in large part, due to the way the causes of deaths are reported. Physicians, medical examiners, and coroners do not usually report a human error as a cause of death. Usually, the reason a person was seeking medical treatment is listed as the cause of death, not an error in medical treatment. The authors of the Johns Hopkins study advocate that the CDC should change the way death certificate data is collected so that a more accurate review of causes of death can be made.

Hospital Errors Are One of the Most Common Causes of Death in the U.S.

Dr. Makary, one of the doctors who authored the Johns Hopkins study, defines death due to medical error as a death resulting from inadequately skilled staff, a lapse in judgment or care, system defects or a preventable adverse effect of a lapse in care. Medical mistakes that may prove fatal include:

  • Unrecognized surgical complications
  • Mix-ups in doses
  • Mix-ups in medication types
  • Computer breakdowns

Now that the magnitude of the hospital error problem in the U.S. is starting to come to light, people are trying to address the situation by advocating for things like heightened medication safety and better training for pharmacy technicians. In the meantime, patients can take steps to protect themselves as best as possible.

Empowered patients may not be completely immune from hospital errors, but it can significantly reduce risks. Be vigilant in seeking answers from your medical providers. Do things like:

  • Ask questions about the side effects, benefits of treatment, and potential disadvantages of treatment.
  • Seek out a second opinion if you are unsure of your doctor’s approach to a situation.
  • Bring a friend or family member to your appointments with you. Being a patient and processing medical information can be an overwhelming experience. Having another set of ears can not only help verify the information being given to you, but he or she may ask questions that may have slipped past you at the moment.

Dedicated Malpractice Attorney

If you have been harmed due to a lapse in medical care, the dedicated medical malpractice attorneys at Cooper, Schall & Levy are here to advocate for you and your right to full and fair compensation. Contact us today.