Savannah, Ga. Trial Attorneys Secure Record-Setting $18 Million Medical Malpractice Verdict in Chatham County


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Harris Lowry Manton LLP partner and National Trial Lawyers — Top 100 member Jeffrey R. Harris and associate Yvonne S. Godfrey – along with Owen C. Murphy of Owen Murphy, P.C. and Medical Malpractice Trial Lawyers Association — Top 25 member W. Andrew Bowen of Bowen Painter, LLC – recently set a record with an $18 million verdict from a Chatham County jury on behalf of their client, Joan Simmons.

“The jury in this case recognized that Joan Simmons was tragically, catastrophically injured and that she will be a paraplegic the rest of her life as a result of medical malpractice,” said Jeffrey R. Harris of Harris Lowry Manton LLP. “The jury’s verdict clearly reflected that understanding.”

In 2014, Simmons was admitted to a Savannah hospital because she was experiencing back pain. The 30-year Colonial Oil employee also showed signs of an infection. An infectious disease doctor at Southcoast Medical Group, as well as other healthcare professionals, failed to diagnose and treat her spinal abscess, a serious complication of a spinal infection. The untreated abscess put pressure on Simmons’ spinal cord, causing paralysis in both legs. As a result of their negligence, Simmons was left permanently paraplegic and unable to work.

“Ms. Simmons went into the hospital with severe back pain and left the hospital in a wheelchair, unable to walk because her medical condition was not timely diagnosed or treated,” said Owen C. Murphy of Owen Murphy, P.C.

Within a few hours of closing arguments, the Chatham County jury returned the largest medical malpractice verdict – and the largest personal injury verdict – in the county’s history. The jury ruled in favor of the plaintiff, Joan Simmons, finding that Southcoast Medical Group was liable for failure to diagnose and treat a spinal abscess.

“This was an important case that clearly demonstrated the catastrophic effect of medical malpractice,” said W. Andrew Bowen of Bowen Painter, LLC. “We are grateful that justice was served for our client and that the responsible parties are being held accountable.”

Brooklyn Woman Recovers $18.2 Million for Failure to Diagnose Intestinal Blood Clot

Plaintiff Attorney Steven Miller of Garden City, NY.

Plaintiff Attorney Steven Miller of Garden City, NY.

A jury in New York awarded $18.2 million to a woman who had to have more than 25 surgeries resulting in the loss of her small bowel because doctors failed to diagnose mesenteric ischemia, or inadequate blood flow to the small intestine.

Plaintiff Marianna Zielinska, a 49-year old homemaker, lived in Brooklyn with her husband Edward Sapkowski in 2008 when she presented three times to defendant Lutheran Medical Center with signs and symptoms of mesenteric ischemia.

She was discharged twice with a diagnosis of gastritis/enteritis. On her third presentation she was taken to surgery and eventually found to have portal vein thrombosis.

Zielinska has lost the majority of her small bowel leaving her with short bowel syndrome, which requires her to be on a limited diet, causes her to defecate shortly after a meal and left her with significant abdominal scarring and loss of tissue.

Attorney Steven Miller of  Miller, Montiel & Strano, PC, in Garden City, NY, represented the plaintiff. He is a member of The National Trial Lawyers Top 100 Attorneys. The case is Zielinska v. Lutheran Medical Center et. al., Case Number 22686/10, New York Supreme Court, Kings County.

The verdict amount was $ 18.2 million, including $7 million past pain and suffering, $10 million future pain & suffering and $ 1.2 million past medical expenses.

Lutheran Medical Center settled for an undisclosed sum prior to the verdict. The verdict was rendered against surgeon Corneliu T. Volpe, M.D., who has offices in Brooklyn, NY and was called in during Ms. Zielinska’s second presentation at Lutheran Medical Center from June 13-21, 2008 for surgical consultation. The claim against him was that he misread an abdominal CT that showed evidence of portal vein thrombosis (clot) and ischemic (lack of blood supply) small bowel, hence failure to diagnose.

Further claims were that on her initial presentation at the hospital on June 8, 2008, Zielinska’s blood work and radiology studies indicating mesenteric ischemia were not appreciated and she was sent home with a diagnosis of uterine myoma (benign growth) that did not explain her symptoms.

On her third presentation on June 28, 2008, ischemic bowel was appreciated, she was taken to surgery during which portions of her bowel fell apart, she was admitted until February 26, 2009. During the admission over 20 surgical procedures were performed upon her. After her discharge, she had 4 additional hospitalizations and 4 additional surgeries.

KY Jury awards $21M against Catholic Health for unnecessary pacemaker

Hans G. Poppe

Hans G. Poppe

A Kentucky jury has returned a $21.2 million verdict against a Catholic Health company and its St. Joseph Hospital London for conspiring with cardiologists to perform unnecessary heart procedures.

After a seven-day trial in Laurel Circuit Court, the jury on August 10 awarded the damages, which included $20 million in punitive damages, to Kevin Wells, a milk truck driver who said one of the doctors unnecessarily implanted a pacemaker in his chest.

He alleged the hospital, after forming a joint venture with local cardiologists that provided incentives for them to perform certain procedures, failed to put in any safeguards to ensure the procedures were necessary, said Hans Poppe, a Louisville lawyer who was one of his attorneys.

Birth Injuries, Including Cerebral Palsy Resulting from Medical Malpractice

A birth injury is one of the most stressful and frightening events that can happen to a family. There are two main types of injuries that can happen during the birthing process; injuries from a lack of oxygen or blood flow to the brain and injuries from trauma. Both types of injuries can result in life-long disabilities for the baby. If these injuries could have been prevented, then the family may have a medical malpractice claim.

Birth asphyxia or hypoxia occurs when a baby does not receive an adequate supply of oxygen before birth, during birth, or immediately following delivery. The amount of damage caused to the baby depends on how severe the asphyxia is, how long it lasts, and how soon proper treatment can be provided.

Some causes of birth asphyxia include:

  • Problems with the placenta separating from the uterus too early
  • Improper blood pressure with the mother, including pregnancy induced hypertension / PIH or preeclampsia
  • Problems with the umbilical cord during delivery
  • Insufficient oxygen in the mother’s blood before or during child birth

Trauma injuries can happen as the result of a doctor’s improper use of a vacuum or forceps when attempting to help the baby’s head exit the birth canal during a difficult delivery.

The fetal heart rate monitor is a device that monitors the heart rate of the baby and the strength and duration of the contractions in the uterus of the mother. If the infant does not have a proper heart rate, the fetal heart rate monitor can alert the medical staff of the problem. If the doctor or nurse fails to take prompt and appropriate action, the baby can suffer a serious and permanent brain injury or even die. If the doctor has a reason to believe that the infant may be harmed by allowing a vaginal birth to proceed, a cesarean section may be required.

One of the most serious birth injuries that can occur to a newborn is cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy refers to a motor coordination problem due to an injury to the brain, which controls both voluntary movement and coordination, and the condition can range from mild to severe. Cerebral palsy may be caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain, trauma injury, delivery mistakes, premature delivery, and certain infections.

Medical malpractice can result in other types of birth injuries as well, including kernicterus, Erbs palsy, and developmental delays. Kernicterus is a rare type of brain damage that occurs in a newborn with severe jaundice. Kernicterus occurs when a substance in the blood, bilirubin, builds up to excessively high levels and spreads to the brain tissues. Permanent injuries resulting from kernicterus include hearing loss or deafness, movement difficulties, learning disabilities, developmental delays, and problems with the eyes.

Erbs palsy is a condition caused by injury to the brachial plexus, which is a group of nerves extending through the neck, armpit area and the arm. If the infant is unable to exit the birth canal naturally, the doctor may need to assist the delivery with a vacuum device or forceps. If the doctor applies too much force twisting and turning the baby’s head and damages the brachial plexus nerves, it can cause paralysis to the face, hand, or arm. In addition to the care a doctor must take when using these instruments to assist with a difficult delivery, the doctor may also need to consider a C-section as an alternative for a difficult delivery.

Developmental delay, which used to be referred to as mental retardation, is a term that applies to children who do not reach developmental milestones that most children achieve by a certain age. Although every child reaches these milestones at a slightly different age, if a child is significantly slower in achieving these milestones or not achieving them at all, this is categorized as a developmental delay. Developmental delays, which can be caused by brain damage resulting from a birth injury, include a significant delay in achieving such tasks as crawling, walking, talking, thinking, or learning.

To find out more information about birth injuries from medical malpractice or to view informative videos about birth injury, cerebral palsy, or kernicterus, please visit

If you believe your child suffered a serious birth injury due to medical negligence, you should contact a medical malpractice attorney who specializes in birth injuries, such as Dr. Bruce Fagel, for a free consultation. The toll free number is (800) 541-9376. Dr. Fagel is an experienced medical malpractice lawyer and a licensed medical doctor. Dr. Fagel understands exactly how the birth process should proceed and where medical malpractice occurred in a birth injury

Patient Safety in Doctor’s Offices and Hospitals – How Medical Errors Place Patients in Danger

Ask most people what they worry about when visiting a hospital and they will probably tell you they are afraid of getting a shot, having blood drawn, or surgery. However, most people probably never realize the dangers involved with preventable medical errors, anesthesia mistakes, hospital acquired infections, medication errors, and many other problems related to medical malpractice.

While most people probably never think they will encounter a medical error when visiting a doctor’s office or hospital, maybe they should think twice. Statistics show nearly every patient who enters a hospital will experience a medical error at least once during their hospitalization. Although most medical errors are not serious or even noticeable, some cause serious injuries or death. Every year approximately 225,000 people in the United States die from medical malpractice, making it the third leading cause of death after heart attacks and cancer. Many additional people are injured from medical mistakes as well.

Anesthesia errors are one area most people give very little thought to. Most people meet with their doctor before surgery, but very few people every meet their anesthesiologist. Anesthesia errors can happen at any time before, during, or after a surgery. In fact anesthesia errors can even happen after a successful surgery. When the surgery is complete and the patient is recovering on the surgical floor or in the post anesthesia care unit (PACU), the surgeon generally defers to the anesthesiologist for all evaluation and management decisions. The anesthesiologist has control over the patient’s life functions, including breathing and heart rate. After surgery is complete and the patient is in PACU, he or she is not out of danger, and a simple mistake can lead to a serious and permanent brain injury or even death. Anesthesia errors are on the rise as more people are having common elective procedures such as plastic surgery and cosmetic surgery in surgical centers and doctor’s offices. This has led to an increase of doctor’s entering the field. Unfortunately there are many doctors who are not fully trained or have adequate experience in performing these delicate procedures. In addition, many doctor’s offices may have improperly trained anesthetists rather than certified anesthesiologists. If a medical emergency happens in a doctor’s office or cosmetic clinic, these facilities usually do not have access to highly trained nurses and medical staff to handle the emergency, and a patient may lose many precious minutes waiting for an ambulance to arrive to transport them to a hospital. During this time, a patient’s serious condition could escalate into a severe medical injury, including permanent brain damage or death.

Patients who have been injured due to medical negligence from a doctor, nurse, anesthesiologist or medical facility, need to consult with a knowledgeable medical malpractice lawyer. If at all possible, an attorney with a strong medical background will be helpful. Doctors and other medical professionals know how to avoid responsibility for medical malpractice, including using complicated medical terminology to confuse patient’s and even attorneys as to their role in the medical injury. This is why it is critical for a victim of medical malpractice to consult with an experienced medical malpractice attorney such as Dr. Bruce Fagel. Dr. Fagel is both a leading medical malpractice attorney and a licensed medical doctor. Dr. Fagel even practiced emergency room medicine for 10 years before becoming an attorney.

If you or a loved one has been the victim of medical malpractice, contact the Law Offices of Dr. Bruce G. Fagel & Associates at (800) 541-9376 right away for a free consultation. There is never a fee unless we win your case.

How Hyperbilirubinemia and Medical Malpractice can be Responsible for Kernicterus in Newborn Babies

Kernicterus is a rare form of brain damage that occurs in some newly born infants with severe jaundice.  Jaundice is a yellow coloring of the skin, eyes or other tissue.  Kernicterus can occur from elevated levels of bilirubin which move from the blood into the brain tissues where it causes brain damage to the baby.

Bilirubin is a substance that is formed when the liver breaks down and removes old red blood cells that can be removed from the body in the stool. A minor increase in bilirubin levels is usually not a problem.  In fact, nearly half of all newborn infants have an increase in their bilirubin levels, due to the fact that their liver is not yet mature enough to break down the excess red blood cells they were born with. However, a significant increase in bilirubin or hyperbilirubinemia can lead to serious injuries to the baby including brain damage or kernicterus, hearing loss or deafness, eye problems, developmental disabilities, and even death.  When bilirubin levels are increased, jaundice may occur.

It is important to understand that kernicterus can be prevented.  If a newborn baby develops jaundice, they should be closely monitored.  With feedings every two to three hours, mild jaundice will usually go away on its own after a few days.  High bilirubin levels will require the baby be treated with phototherapy or a blood transfusion to reduce the bilirubin levels.  If hyperbilirubinemia has lead to kernicterus, then the brain damage is already happening.  It is critical that parents pay attention for these signs and seek medical attention immediately for the baby before additional brain damage occurs.

Kernicterus warning signs:

  • The baby is excessively sleepy or lethargic
  • It is difficult to awaken the baby.  Once awake, the baby can’t stay awake
  • The baby has a high pitched cry that sounds abnormal
  • The baby does not startle from sudden movements or touching
  • The baby has poor muscle tone, an arched back with the neck being hyper-extended backwards or unusual muscle flexing
  • The baby suffers from seizures or has a fever

If kernicterus has developed, there are treatments available to help the child better cope with the condition, including physical therapy, speech therapy, and special education.

For more information about kernicterus and how medical malpractice may be responsible, contact the Law Offices of Dr. Bruce G. Fagel & Associates at (800) 541-9376.  Visit Kernicterus Video for an informative video featuring Dr. Fagel.

Medical Malpractice and Medical Negligence Problems in the United States

Every year, approximately 225,000 people in the United States die from medical malpractice.  Countless patients are also seriously injured from medical negligence as well.  Many cases are never even reported or legally pursued by the patients; therefore making medical malpractice injuries a difficult statistic to accurately monitor.

Medical negligence is the act or omission of treatment for a patient by a medical professional, which deviates from the accepted medical standard of care.  Medical malpractice involves negligence in which a medical professional or medical facility did not take the proper action required in a reasonable amount of time and this negligence caused injuries to the patient.  When physicians are granted their medical license, they take the Hippocratic Oath which is their solemn promise to treat their patients to the best of their ability and to avoid causing them harm. When medical professionals violate this oath and cause harm to their patients, they are considered negligent in legal terms.

What is medical malpractice and medical negligence:

Medical misdiagnosis:  A common form of medical negligence involves the misdiagnosis of symptoms or the failure to properly diagnose a medical problem.  A patient depends on the medical professionals to accurately diagnose and treat the medical problem.  If the doctor misdiagnoses the problem, the patient may be prescribed the wrong drugs, the wrong treatment, or treatment that makes the patient’s condition far worse, including permanent injuries or even death.

An example of a misdiagnosis would be a patient whose cancer is misdiagnosed or diagnosed too late.  While some cancers will not necessarily benefit from early detection and treatment, such as some types of pancreatic cancer, brain cancer, and small cell cancers, other types will benefit greatly, including saving the patient’s life.  Examples of cancer types that benefit from early treatment include lung cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer, and non-small cell cancers.  If the cancer had been diagnosed, or an earlier diagnosis could have prevented serious injuries or death to the patient, then the patient or the patient’s family may have a medical malpractice case.

Surgical mistakes:  Surgical mistakes are common with medical malpractice cases.  Because surgery is so complex and often extreme precision is required, if a surgeon accidentally cuts a vital organ, foreign fluids can enter and cause serious infections, sepsis, or septic shock which can cause a patient’s death. Other surgical mistakes include removing the wrong appendage or operating on the wrong side of the body.

Anesthesia mistakes:  The administration of anesthesia poses an elevated risk during any surgical procedure.  This is why anesthesiologists practice a focused medicine. Anesthesia mistakes can result in serious brain injuries or organ failures.  Anesthesia mistakes can also cause death from heart failure or asphyxia.  Anesthesia errors often result outside the hospital setting in doctor’s offices for routine elective surgeries including breast augmentation, liposuction, lap band, and gastric bypass.  Anesthesia mistakes also occur even after a successful operation, where the patient suffers injuries on the surgical floor or post anesthesia recovery room and ends up with permanent and catastrophic brain injuries or dies.

Medication errors:  A medication error can happen if the nurse or doctor prescribes the wrong medication, the incorrect dosage of a medication, or does not properly screen the patient for allergies they may have to certain medications, or screen for other medications they may be taking that could have an adverse reaction with the prescribed medicine.  A frequent event that happens with medication mistakes involves a nurse or doctor giving medication to a patient at the end of their shift but not properly communicating this to the nurses or doctors on the next shift.  The next shift’s nurses or doctors then end up prescribing another dosage to the patient, sometimes causing an overdose.

If you or a family member was seriously injured or died as the result of medical malpractice or medical negligence, you should contact the best medical malpractice lawyer possible.  Call the Law Offices of Dr. Bruce G. Fagel & Associates at (800) 541-9376 for a free consultation.  Dr. Bruce Fagel is a leading medical malpractice lawyer and a licensed physician.  Dr. Fagel practiced emergency room medicine for over 10 years before becoming a medical malpractice attorney.

Surgical Mistakes in Doctors Offices and Hospitals

Surgical mistakes in doctors offices and hospitals is a frightening situation nobody wants to experience.  Most people fear surgery, but add to that fear the thought that a mistake made during the operation can lead to a severe injury or even death is a terrifying prospect.  Approximately 225,000 people in the United States die each year from medical malpractice, which makes it the third leading cause of death behind heart attacks and cancer.  This alarming number does not even factor in the thousands of additional people who are injured from medical malpractice.  Many cases of medical malpractice are never reported or documented either.

When people think about serious injuries or death from surgery, they tend to think that only serious operations lead to these catastrophies.  People likely envision a scene from a tv show or a movie showing a car accident or gunshot victim or someone with a heart attack being transported to the hospital and a group of surgeons performing the life saving operation.  However, even simple elective procedures such as plastic surgery or weight loss surgery can also lead to serious injuries or death to patients.  Most people believe these elective surgeries, which have become so common are completely safe procedures; however, every surgery carries with it a risk of serious injury.

Another misconception among the general public is only new or inexperienced surgeons or doctors make surgical mistakes.  People often believe that a well-known high priced surgeon, or even one who deals mainly with famous or wealthy clients do not make surgical mistakes.  However, even the most skilled and respected surgeons make mistakes that lead to severe injuries or even death to their patients.

One area where many surgical mistakes occur is with surgical centers and doctors offices.  If a medical emergency occurs, these facilities usually do not have access to a trained staff of medical experts, such as critical care nurses and emergency surgeons, nor do they have access to the same medical equipment and resources that a hospital may have.  If a serious emergency occurs, the patient may be kept waiting many minutes for an ambulance to arrive and transport them to a hospital.  During these agonizing minutes, a serious medical condition can quickly escalate to a critical life threatening emergency with permanent brain injuries to the patient.

Surgical errors from medical malpractice frequently happens in hospitals as well.  Medical mistakes can happen from overworked medical staff, when there is a shortage of medical staff, improperly trained staff or when the medical staff fails to properly communicate with each other.  In a serious emergency, a patient in a hospital may be kept waiting if the surgeon is in the middle of another operation or not in the facility.

If you or someone you care about has been injured or died from medical malpractice including suffering serious injuries from a surgical mistake, contact the Law Offices of Dr. Bruce G. Fagel & Associates at (800) 541-9376 for a free legal consultation. Dr. Bruce Fagel is an experienced medical malpractice lawyer and a licensed medical doctor.  In fact, Dr. Fagel practiced emergency room medicine for over 10 years before becoming an attorney, so he understands exactly how hospitals and medical facilities should operate, and where medical negligence took place that may have caused the injuries.