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Medical malpractice: A case of divided negligence in Pennsylvania

In civil lawsuits involving numerous parties accused of negligence, the negligence may be divided into percentages. For instance, in a recent medical malpractice case that was settled in Pennsylvania, three separate parties were found to be negligent, but to greater or lesser degrees.

Medical malpractice and wrongful death claims were filed by a Wyomissing man on behalf of his deceased friend's young children. According to the lawsuit, the children's father died as a result of negligence on the part of two doctors and Temple University Hospital. A jury in Philadelphia recently decided in favor of the plaintiffs and awarded them $6.4 million.

The 38-year-old who died had a history of heart problems. One day in 2009, he experienced chest and shoulder pains and was transported to Temple University Hospital. Two doctors there assessed the man's condition, and according to the recently settled medical malpractice claim, the doctors failed to order proper treatment. Instead, they diagnosed the man with pneumonia and syncope and sent him home.

About three months later, the man suffered an acute cardiac arrest and was diagnosed with an anoxic brain injury. He was discharged from the hospital and taken to a long-term care facility. For about a month, the man remained on mechanical ventilation and underwent a number of medical procedures. He died shortly thereafter.

According to the lawsuit, the doctors' and the hospital's negligence led to the man's death. One doctor was found to be 10 percent negligent; the other doctor was 88 percent negligent; and it was determined that Temple University Hospital was 2 percent negligent.

The case goes to show that determining liability is not always as simple as it seems. Pennsylvania residents who have suffered because of hospital or doctor errors should be aware of each and every option for obtaining a favorable settlement. Fluency in our state's medical malpractice laws is indispensible to ensuring that outcome.

Source: The Pennsylvania Record, "Phila. jury renders $6.4 million plaintiffs' verdict in medical malpractice, wrongful death case," Jon Campisi, June 7, 2012

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