Lisa Zenzen Baker, 1961-2003


Friday, November 11, 2005

Motion served

Court asked to rule
hospital caused Lisa's death

By David Baker
Posted February 13, 2008

A legal document asking a judge to rule that Samaritan Hospital was responsible for the injuries that led to Lisa's death was served on Monday.

The document, called a motion, cites a legal doctrine known as res ipsa loquitur, under which a defendant is presumed to be liable if the defendant had exclusive control of the circumstances in which the injury occurred, and that the injury would not have occurred in the absence of someone's negligence.

It is then up to the defendant to prove - not just state, but prove - that those conditions were not met, or that there is some other explanation for the harm.

The lawsuit, which started in 2005, names the hospital, a doctor, four nurses and an employment agency. The motion filed this week asks for $1.5 million in damages, as well as the costs of the

Shifting the burden of proof

Res ipsa loquitur explained

The following is taken from the lawyer referral Web page Medical

Establishing wrongdoing on the part of a health care provider is often difficult. It requires the hiring of experts, in the same field as the health care professional being charged with misconduct, who must testify as to what the defendant should have done under applicable professional standards. Since medical organizations generally discourage those in the medical professions from testifying against one another, it is difficult to find experts who have the integrity to come forward and testify as to misconduct by one of their peers. In addition, many insurance companies providing coverage to health care providers require that they not testify against other providers who are insured by the same company.

Proving malpractice is also difficult because the defendants are often the ones who write the medical reports that often form the basis of the suit. Since they are often the only ones who are present and know what really occurred when the negligence happened, and they choose how to describe the event, records are often not descriptive of what truly happened. In addition, some health care providers may frame their reports so as to protect someone guilty of misconduct.

Fortunately, the law recognizes that plaintiffs face certain difficulties in proving medical negligence, due in no small part to the fact that they are often not conscious when the negligence occurs. If a patient is injured as the result of a medical procedure does not know exactly what caused his or her injury, but it is the type of injury that would not have occurred without negligence on the part of his or her health care provider(s), he or she may invoke a legal doctrine known as "res ipsa loquitur." Translated, this Latin phrase means "the thing speaks for itself," and implies that the plaintiff need only show that a particular result occurred and would not have occurred but for someone's negligence.
To invoke this doctrine successfully, a plaintiff has to show that:

* Evidence of the actual cause of the injury is not obtainable;
* The injury is not the kind that ordinarily occurs in the absence of negligence by someone;
* The plaintiff was not responsible for his or her own injury;
* The defendant, or its employees or agents, had exclusive control of the instrumentality that caused the injury; and
* The injury could not have been caused by any instrumentality other than that over which the defendant had control.

Once this doctrine is successfully invoked, the burden is not on the plaintiff to show how the defendant was negligent, but on the defendant to show that he or she was not negligent. A classic example of the type of case in which this doctrine arises is where a sponge or other medical instrument is left inside a person following surgery. Typically, a medical report will not state "Dr. Smith left forceps in patient's abdomen," and there may be no recorded proof of how or why the negligence occurred. Yet clearly, a surgical instrument would not be left in a patient in the absence of someone's negligence. Also, an unconscious patient certainly cannot be deemed responsible for this type of injury, and it would have been the operating physician and staff who had exclusive control over the surgical tools.

Thus, the burden falls not on the patient to prove who left the surgical instrument inside him or her, but on the individual health care providers to try to establish that it was not their negligence that resulted in the injury. If an attending physician, who is an independent contractor rather than an employee of a hospital, can demonstrate that he left the operating room and instructed a nurse, who was a hospital employee, to remove and account for all surgical instruments before the patient was closed, the hospital might be held liable for the negligence of its employee. In any event, the co-defendants rather than the plaintiff do the bulk of the investigation and finger-pointing, which is quite appropriate given the circumstances.

Hospital blocks settlement

It’s back to the legal fight

By David Baker
Posted February 3, 2008

Back in late September of last year, an attorney for Samaritan Hospital said her clients were prepare to discuss a possible settlement of the lawsuit over Lisa’s death. Today, four months later, it appears that there was never a real intent to resolve the case. With any agreement to maintain confidentiality now ended by the defendants’ conduct, here is a detailed account of what has happened during that time.

The hospital and the nurses named in the lawsuit are represented by Kathleen Ryan, Esq. of the law firm of Carter, Conboy, Case, Blackmore, Maloney & Laird, which has offices on Corporate Woods Boulevard in Albany. The defendants’ insurance carrier is Medical Liability Mutual Insurance Company, which has an office on British American Boulevard in Latham. Medical Liability Mutual is the largest medical liability insurer in New York, insuring about 80 percent of the state’s medical providers.

THE OFFER TO TRY AND SETTLE the case came one day after I had deposed then-defendant Dr. Rajinder Jain. At the end of my examination under oath of a nurse, and after everyone else had left the conference room, a retired state Supreme Court judge – who had been appointed by the current judge at Ms. Ryan’s request to referee the depositions – asked me if there had been any attempt to settle. When I said there had not, he left the room and came back a few minutes later with Ms. Ryan, who said her clients were interested in trying to settle the case.

She also said she had an expert who was prepared to say that the hospital was not responsible for Lisa’s death, and that she was ready to file a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

As soon as she said that, I thought that if it were the case, wouldn’t she be drafting the motion instead of telling me she was ready to attempt a settlement? It appeared to be simply a negotiating tactic, and a rather clumsy one at that. But I didn’t say anything. And later I would learn that the insurance carrier then tried to obtain an expert opinion but couldn’t immediately find anyone to give it.

More on that in a moment.

Over the following few days I expected some sort of contact from Ms. Ryan, with what I assumed would be a specific offer, and to arrange a meeting to discuss the details. But the next correspondence was a demand from her for authorizations to obtain Lisa’s medical records from two doctors and two pharmacies.

I signed them in front of a witness, as was required, and had them served on her. I had already signed dozens of these authorizations in 2005 so I thought that by now Ms. Ryan must surely have every piece of medical information that she could possibly need.

Three weeks later I went to Albany Memorial Hospital (which, like Samaritan, is owned by Northeast Health) to examine some original medical records from the night Lisa was found near death which, because Highlighter had been used on them, had not copied legibly. Ms. Ryan was there, along with attorneys representing the two defendant doctors. After my inspection, Ms. Ryan told the other attorneys about our conversation at the deposition regarding a possible settlement. She then told me that the carrier had asked for a ‘final review’ and that until this was received, she could not give me a specific offer of settlement. She went on to say that she had hoped this review would have arrived in time for our meeting that day – a comment that suggested to me that she thought it might be on her desk when she returned to her office.

But more weeks passed and there was still no contact from Ms. Ryan. In early December I served notices on her to take the depositions of two more of the nurses named in the lawsuit. This was to save time if there was no settlement; the notices have to be served some time before a deposition.

About this time I decided to try and move the apparently stalled matter along by asking the Court to schedule a conference with the judge in his chambers. If such a request is granted, attendance by all parties is mandatory.

The conference took place on December 13. Ms. Ryan began by telling the judge that the insurance carrier was interested in trying to settle, but it had decided to get another expert review before making an offer.

Then, according to the court reporter’s transcript, she said:

“We have not completed that review because, frankly, just because it’s been very difficult to get a doctor in this field to agree to do it for the price they’re willing to pay. We have it out now, and as soon as we get this review back, it’s my understanding they will have some money to offer. I don’t know how much it’s going to be. I think we have talked about that before. I have made my recommendations, but I do know they will be making an offer.

“I apologize to Mr. Baker because when I first broached this, I was told to broach it with the idea that we’re going to be able to get this matter resolved. I will be very frank that my hospital (Samaritan) has to consent, and they have some concerns since one of the doctors was let out (of the lawsuit). I need their consent before I can make any offer.”

(This got my attention: I seem to recall seeing a copy of what’s known as a ‘reservation of rights’ letter from the carrier to the hospital that said the carrier alone decides if and when to settle. But maybe there is another agreement that supersedes it.)

Ms. Ryan went on to say she thought the review would be done and she would be ready to make an offer “in a month” – i.e., by mid January.

Then she said: “But right now I’m waiting for the review to be able to have my carrier speak with my hospital and determine whether they’re going to consent under the circumstances.”

She also said she was hoping to be able to settle the case without any more discovery. So I was surprised a few days later to receive another 15 demands from her – signed before the date of the conference – for authorizations to obtain medical records. I also had been led to believe by my former attorney that most if not all these authorizations had been provided to the defendants more than two years earlier. But it appeared that these renewed authorizations might assist in reaching a settlement, so I signed them and had them served.

These new demands were of a scatter-gun nature: several of them were to different doctors in the same practice groups. One of those groups was a large one that includes the doctor who had been Lisa’s primary-care physician for 30 years. This meant that unless Ms. Ryan’s staff noticed the repeated address, they were going to be requesting four or five copies of the same very large file.

And that raises another question: Why didn’t they get these files two years ago? The answer seems obvious: Because they already knew what had caused Lisa’s collapse and there had been no need to spend money – as much as 75 cents a page – on irrelevant records.

Until last year, that is, as they faced the prospect of having to settle and they began desperately looking for something – anything – that could be used to at least reduce their liability.

Hence the “final review.” And I suspect, the absence of a settlement offer when nothing could be found.

On January 26 – four months after settlement was first mentioned – I wrote to Ms. Ryan by Certified Mail, saying that if an offer had not been made by February 1, I would assume none was going to be forthcoming.

I received no response. So, as noted in the post below, the next step is a motion asking the judge to decide the case in my favor – with the presumption that Samaritan Hospital is fully liable for the horrific injuries Lisa suffered while in its care, and for her excruciatingly painful and totally preventable death.


Insurers stop claims

More hospitals to forgo
payment for ‘never events’

By David Baker
Posted January 30, 2008

The state of Washington is the latest state to announce an agreement under which hospitals will no longer be paid for treatment that results from a so-called “never event.”

As I reported here briefly last week from England, a never event is one that is so clearly preventable that there can be no doubt that the hospital was responsible for it. Troy Brennan, chief medical officer for Aetna, one of the insurers that is will soon refuse to pay for such events, was quoted in The Wall Street Journal on January 15 as saying that never events “are ones that are so egregious that there can’t be any argument that they should ever happen.”

Now Aetna is being joined by a growing number of health insurers that are requiring hospitals to agree that they will not bill either the insurance company or the patient for treatment needed as a result of a never event.

One of the those 28 never events describes exactly what happened to Lisa. It reads:

“Death or serious injury arising from hypoglycemia, the onset of which occurs while the patient is in the care of a healthcare facility.”

Lisa had been in Samaritan Hospital for five days when she was found nearly dead and with a blood sugar level near zero.

But despite that, the hospital has spent the past four years denying that it is responsible for Lisa’s injures and death. It is clear now that they knew immediately – almost certainly the same day – that they were responsible for a terrible mistake. But their response was to deny me access to the medical records and refuse to talk to me about what had happened.

Samaritan Hospital billed and was paid about $74,000 for treating Lisa for the injuries it allegedly had caused. Doctor bills added another $20,000. What other profession would get paid by the victim for dealing with the consequences of its own horrific mistakes?

The idea of a never event also fits with a legal doctrine called ‘res ipsa loquitur’, which is Latin and means “the thing itself speaks.” In other words, the defendants had total control of the situation, and the event is not supposed to happen. If it does, the defendants therefore must be presumed to be responsible for it.

As for the lawsuit, back in September, an attorney for the hospital and its nurses told me she was now prepared to make an offer to settle the case. This happened one day after I had deposed one of the doctors, and the doctor, an expert in diabetes, had testified that the most likely cause of a huge plunge in blood sugar – such as the hospital records show had happened to Lisa – was insulin.

This was the doctor who had placed a note in Lisa’s chart that day on what to do if she became hypoglycemic.

Lisa did become hypoglycemic. But those orders, the record shows, were ignored.

So if the defendants did in fact want to settle, the next step would have been to present a specific number to me, and then probably there would be a negotiation between the parties of a final amount.

But that hasn’t happened, because over the past four months the attorney has instead given only excuses for the delay, while the insurance company has evidently spent weeks trying to find an expert, who – for a fee – will presumably say that the hospital had limited or no responsibility for Lisa’s injuries and death.

It’s not exactly dealing with me in good faith. Meanwhile the hospital itself is apparently refusing to consent to a settlement because I have since released the doctor I deposed from the lawsuit.

The next step is a motion for summary judgment based on the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur. This will force the defendants to either try and settle the claim – if I am still willing at that point to talk to them – or to explain in detail why they are not liable.

Meanwhile, more insurers are going to stop paying for treatment resulting from these never events. And it’s a sad indictment of greedy and uncaring healthcare providers like the operators of Samaritan Hospital that in the future they may find ways to fatally injure and maim fewer of their patients.

Not because its wrong to fatally injure and maim patients.

But because they will no longer be paid for treating patients that they fatally injure or maim.


Judge to rule soon

Decision due on dismiss motion

By David Baker
Posted Thursday, November 22, 2007

A judge is due to rule by the end of the month on Steve Coffey’s attempt to throw out my lawsuit alleging that he tried to destroy my case against Samaritan Hospital.

The return date on the motion to dismiss was October 4. The judge has up to 60 days to grant all or part of the motion, deny it, or – as I have asked – postpone a decision until some discovery has taken place.

At the time the motion was filed, no depositions had been taken. While such a motion can be filed at any time, it is very unusual for one to the granted before at least some information has been put on the record.

If the motion is granted it can be appealed, as can any decision that would completely a lawsuit.

The other victims of medical errors

The Emotional Toll of Medical Mistakes

When medical errors occur, the person who died or was injured is only one of the victims, as this story that appeared last week in the Well section of the New York Times points out.

The physical consequences of medical errors are obvious. One well-known study estimated that as many as 98,000 hospital deaths a year stem from mistakes by health care workers. But what about the less visible emotional costs of these missteps?

The New England Journal of Medicine tackled the issue yesterday in a moving commentary called “Guilty, Afraid and Alone: Struggling with Medical Error.’’ The writers, Dr. Tom Delbanco and Dr. Sigall K. Bell of the Harvard Medical School, note that while the medical community has focused largely on reducing error rates, hospitals also need to address the “human dimensions” of treatment blunders and to assist in the emotional recovery of patients and families.

The doctors, who are making a documentary film on the subject, talked to numerous patients and families affected by medical errors. The authors found that family members often feel guilty for not having protected loved ones from the caregivers’ mistakes and that many feared retribution if they did complain. And Dr. Delbanco and Dr. Bell note that physicians who err often shut out patients and their families, “isolating them just when they are most in need.’’

When mistakes happen, relatives often berate themselves for not keeping close watch on their loved ones. In one case cited in the commentary, the family of a man with sickle cell anemia repeatedly warned health care workers not to administer morphine. But somehow it happened anyway, sending the man into kidney failure and a coma.

“The feeling was impotence, because you can’t stay with a patient 24 hours a day,’’ said his sister. “That’s why you rely on hospitals — you rely on nurses. You feel like you failed your family in terms of ‘I should have been there.’ That’s a guilt that everyone shares.”

But these tragedies don't have to be followed by the wall of silence and years of hostile litigation that many hospitals and their insurers use, even in cases where they know a mistake was made. The story below shows that something positive can result, from even the worst event. In this case, the patient died less than three weeks ago, but the healing process already has begun.

Toddler's death leads to
stricter medical safeguards

A tragic mistake that led to the death of a 3-year-old boy
prompted the University of Florida's medical center to
pledge it will improve its procedures.

Posted on Sat, Oct. 27, 2007


At age 3, Sebastian Ferrero was an active, healthy, intelligent boy who already spoke English, Italian and Spanish and was attending preschool, his parents say.

On Oct. 10, he died at a Shands HealthCare facility at the University of Florida. Doctors say it was because he was given a dose 10 times too high of a substance used for testing growth hormone deficiency -- even though the boy's mother was present and questioning the dose as it was being administered.

In his death, Sebastian's grieving parents are praising at least the facility's candor in taking responsibility and vowing to work with Shands on a foundation to build a ''state-of-the-art children's hospital'' with safeguards to prevent such mistakes.

At a Thursday press conference in Gainesville, Dr. Donald Novak, professor of pediatrics and vice chairman of clinical affairs for the UF College of Medicine's Department of Pediatrics, said: ``We take full responsibility for Sebastian's death and are very, very sorry.''

Dr. Richard Bucciarelli, interim chairman of the UF College of Medicine's Department of Pediatrics, said: ``We will be most delighted to work with the family on these issues.''

Bucciarelli said the hospital is working out a settlement with the family, but that he couldn't reveal how much.

In the press conference and a subsequent news release, Novak gave this account of the boy's death:

• On Oct. 8, Sebastian, healthy but small for his age, went to the University of Florida Physicians Pediatric Outpatient Clinic for a growth hormone stimulation test. He was given an amino acid called arginine to test for growth hormone deficiency. It was dispensed by the Shands Medical Plaza Outpatient Pharmacy.

• The dose prescribed by the boy's doctor was 5.75 grams. Sebastian received 60 grams, even though the boy's mother questioned the procedure as it was going on and Sebastian was showing signs of distress and a headache.

• The clinic had two bottles for Sebastian's test. And while the prescribed dose of 5.75 grams was printed on each bottle, each bottle contained 30 grams of arginine. The bottles were marked ''1 of 2'' and ''2 of 2,'' which may have led the clinic's staff to think both bottles had to be given to Sebastian.

• That night, Sebastian was taken to the emergency room vomiting, and doctors determined he had cerebral edema, a swelling of the brain. On Thursday, he was removed from life support.

Novak acknowledged a series of errors in how the arginine was processed by the pharmacy and administered in the clinic, and outlined countermeasures:

• The hospital placed a nurse and pharmacist involved on administrative leave during an investigation.

• It put a moratorium on such procedures at all outpatient clinics. It is setting up mandatory retraining for all personnel. It will create a double-sign-off system to cut drug errors.

''We mean to have experts look at all areas of our practice and review all of our policies,'' Bucciarelli said.

''Unfortunately,'' Novak said, ``these steps cannot undo the tragedy that occurred. Words cannot describe our profound regret for these events.''

In Miami, attorney Tania Cruz, of Squire, Sanders & Dempsey, representing the family, said Sebastian's parents, Horst and Luisa Ferrero, ``are handling it the best they can.''

``They appreciate that Shands has taken the high road in admitting liability. They want to use this tragedy to create a legacy in their son's name, working with Shands to create a children's hospital.''

Goliath wants assistance

Law firm boasts of its expertise
while asking the court for help

By David Baker
Posted October 22, 2007

Steve Coffey’s law firm, which in a legal filing opposing my lawsuit against it asked a judge not to allow me any of the latitude often given to self represented litigants, has just put out a press release in which it boasts of its ability to provide its clients with “…unparalleled advice, advocacy and action in their defense.”

The news release announces that O’Connell & Aronowitz has formed a new health care fraud and abuse unit within the firm to assist clients with government regulations. The unit consists of six of the firm’s 29 attorneys – one of them Coffey – who between them, according to the firm’s president, Jeffrey Sherrin, “bring a wealth of experience from all sides of this issue: government regulators, former prosecutors, health care litigators and criminal defense attorneys.”

According to the Oct. 17 release, the new unit brings together nearly 140 years of experience in healthcare and criminal law. “Few law firms in the State can offer such knowledgeable and experienced counsel,” Sherrin is quoted as saying.

I knew there was a reason this firm wants the court’s help in defending it against me as a non-lawyer. They wouldn’t want an uneven playing field.

The announcement raises another question: How can the firm represent healthcare providers and people who claim to have been injured by healthcare providers? On the Website the firm lists the Healthcare Association of New York as a client. This association represents 550 healthcare facilities in the state, including the company that owns Samaritan Hospital. And Coffey himself lists malpractice as one of his areas of practice. Isn’t there going to be a web of conflicts here?

And here’s another twist to this convoluted situation: Coffey probably doesn’t remember the case, but back in the mid 1990s he represented a woman from Saratoga Springs who had nearly died from injuries she received when her car was broadsided by an uninsured driver who ran a red light and then left the state.

That woman had a younger sister. Her name was Lisa.

Lisa Zenzen.


Coffey files motion reply



By David Baker
Posted on October 13, 2007

It’s true! At least according to the attorney representing lawyer Steve Coffey in his fight against my lawsuit accusing him of trying to destroy my medical malpractice case against Samaritan Hospital over the death of my wife, Lisa.

In a legal document filed with the court last week, Coffey’s attorney, Pamela Nichols, says I should not be given the extra latitude often granted to self-represented litigants because it is clear that I am not “the typical unsophisticated laymen” (sic), and the fact that I have continued to represent Lisa’s estate in the case against the hospital shows that, “a David and Goliath dynamic is not present in this case.”

Nichols is trying to get my lawsuit thrown out before any of the parties have been questioned under oath. She seems particularly anxious to stop me from deposing my former attorney, Cynthia LaFave. She claims I want to depose LaFave not to reveal facts in this case but just so I can attack the Delmar attorney – even though legal papers Nichols filed last month include a copy of a sworn statement by LaFave.

This effort is particularly disingenuous considering that at my meeting with him in his office last year, Coffey said LaFave didn’t know what she was doing, had sued too many people, and in medical malpractice cases, was “in over her head.”

Nichols also claims my lawsuit is “driven by paranoia and grief.”

Of course there is grief, as well as anger. Someone died under circumstances which still have not been revealed, almost four years later. That’s why there is a lawsuit.

But paranoia? That is a specific medical condition. One dictionary defines it as “a form of insanity characterized by fixed delusions.”

Is Nichols a psychiatrist, as well as a lawyer whose boss has given her an indefensible case?

Most lawyers who decline a case will make sure they advise the potential client of the statute of limitations. They want a defense against any claim if a lawsuit is filed too late.

But with a similar deadline approaching in my case, I can prove that Coffey did just the opposite.

After contacting me in August 2006 and offering to consider a case his firm, citing its workload, had rejected earlier in the year, Coffey:

* agreed to examine LaFave’s legal file on the case but never did;

* asked me for and was paid $1,500 for an expert’s review of the medical records but in four months never had any review done;

* stated in writing that he had made a formal request to the court for an extension of a hold then in place, before eventually admitting to me in writing that no such request had been made;

* finally filed the request with the court, two days after the deadline, while ignoring repeated requests from me for a copy of the letter he had stated had been sent two weeks earlier.

And incredibly, Coffey now claims that while all this was happening, he was still considering whether to take the case against the hospital.

The lawsuit wasn’t thrown out, but only because, suspicious of Coffey’s real motive and one day before the deadline – and against the specific advice of his associate and co-defendant Brendan Tully – I prepared and served an affidavit opposing a motion by the doctors and the hospital to have the whole case dismissed.

So this week, Coffey, desperate to avoid having his actions revealed in deposition testimony, is asking the court to treat me as if I too have been through law school, and now have years of experience and the support staff and research abilities of one of the largest and oldest law firms in the area.

The suggestion is ludicrous. In fact, I been never been to law school or even taken a paralegal course. Nor did I go to college; I was home schooled. All I have done is copy the layout of necessary documents and absorbed enough of the legal terminology to write the complaint and other papers filed so far in this case.

But that -- and a strong set of facts -- apparently is all you need to get one of the area’s most visible lawyers running scared.

Depositions completed

Medical providers
testify on Lisa's care

By David Baker
Posted September 30, 2007

Last week I took the depositions of a doctor and a nurse involved in Lisa's care in 2003. Following these examinations, the parties in the case are evaluating the evidence obtained. While this is taking place no further infomation will be disclosed. A further statement will appear here as and when it is appropriate.

Dismiss papers served

Motion finally arrives,

key info missing

By David Baker
Posted September 23, 2007

The motion to dismiss my lawsuit against Steve Coffey and his firm has finally been handed to me, more that a month after Coffey’s attorney said it would be served.

And if this document were to be given a title, an appropriate one might be: “If I Did It.”

Pamela Nichols is the O’Connell & Aronowitz attorney representing Coffey. In her affidavit with the motion Nichols says that even if Coffey and co-defendant Brendan Tully did everything that is alleged in my complaint, there is still no case. The motion asks the judge to dismiss the entire action before any discovery has taken place, before any of the participants have been placed under oath and questioned.

The motion comes after Nichols twice in the space of less than a week arranged for my deposition in the case, then canceled it at the last minute. It seems very unlikely that she had any intention of actually taking my deposition. Rather, the idea was probably to cause maximum disruption to my work schedule while she compiled the motion served this week.

And evidently that still wasn’t enough time to get it right. Part of the motion is copies of documents known as exhibits. One of these exhibits is a document listed in Nichols’ affidavit as being a copy of the complaint I filed in February of this year that started this lawsuit.

But instead what is included is a copy of my initial complaint filed in 2005 against Samaritan Hospital. Not something the judge will need or expect to see when considering this motion.

And there is another document that is curiously missing from the exhibits, a section of which is copies of correspondence between me and Coffey’s office. Back in October of 2006, Coffey’s associate Brendan Tully sent me a letter in which he stated that he had followed the instructions of the judge in the hospital case to send the court – with copies to the defending attorneys – a formal written request for an extension of a hold on the lawsuit then in place that was about to expire.

Upon receiving the letter, I immediately asked Tully for a copy of this letter to the court. It didn’t come. Over the next several weeks – during which the hold expired and the hospital’s lawyers, unaware of Coffey’s intervention, asked the court to throw out my case – I made repeated and increasingly urgent requests for a copy of the letter Tully said had been sent.

Finally, on November 14 – two weeks after I had prepared and filed papers that were successful in opposing the motion to dismiss – Coffey wrote to me and admitted that the letter Tully said had been sent to the court in October had in fact never gone out. He also said the letter had finally been written and sent to the court on November 3.

According to the judge in his order extending the hold, Coffey’s letter arrived on November 4 – two days after the deadline for a response to the motion to dismiss. If I had not disregarded Tully’s advice to me one day before the deadline not to file an opposition, my case against the hospital would almost certainly have been thrown out.

And it is Coffey’s written admission that this letter had not been sent when he had said it was that is strangely missing from the motion filed this week to throw out my case against Coffey and his firm.

Another set of exhibits in Nichols’ motion is copies of several items from this Web page. During the next week or so, I will be preparing a response to the motion. Maybe I’ll include as an exhibit some other items from this site.

Starting with this one.


Depositions set

Almost four years later,
doctor, nurse to testify

By David Baker
Posted Sept. 12, 2007

On Aug. 30 I was deposed by lawyers for Samaritan Hospital and the nurses named in the lawsuit. The questioning lasted about five hours. I am awaiting a copy of the transcript for my review and signature.

Later this month I am scheduled to depose a doctor and one of the nurses. These depositions should produce details of what happened on the night of November 10/11 2003 when Lisa was found in her hospital bed with no pulse and a near-zero blood sugar level.

She was left in a coma and died three weeks later.

Meanwhile, the motion to dismiss that Steve Coffey's lawyer stated in writing would be served on me the week ending August 25 still has not arrived, nor has any other communication been received from O'Connell & Aronowitz.

A conference in the judge's chambers is scheduled for Sept. 20.

UPDATE, Sept. 6: More than two weeks after the defendants stated in writing that a motion to dismiss my lawsuit would be filed, no motion has been served. This law firm's conduct has gone from allegedly malicious to downright bizarre. And now, at my request, the judge has scheduled a hearing for later this month. Attendance is mandatory.

Motion detector

Posted August 27, 2007

Six days after canceling my deposition for the second time in a week, the lawyer representing Steve Coffey has still not filed the motion she said would be "served on you this week."

As of Monday, no papers had been received. And a call to the clerk of the Supreme Court in Albany at noon revealed that nothing had been entered into the computer system and no motion was awaiting entry.

In a letter to me dictated on Tuesday of last week, attorney Pamela Nichols said the motion would seek a summary judgment dismissing my claim against Coffey, Brendan Tully and the law firm itself, O'Connell & Aronowitz.

The suit, filed in February of this year, alleges that the defendants conspired to get my claim against Samaritan Hospital thrown out while they said they deciding whether to take over the case.

The claim against the Troy hospital is over Lisa's death in 2003. The first deposition in that case is scheduled to take place this Thursday.

Coffey lawyer wants

lawsuit thrown out

By David Baker
Posted August 22, 2007

The first deposition in my lawsuit against Steve Coffey has been delayed for the second time in a week. On Tuesday, less that 24 hours before I was scheduled to be deposed, Coffey’s lawyer, Pamela Nichols, decided instead to announce that she intends to file a motion to dismiss my claim.

A motion to for summary judgement to dismiss can be served at any time during a lawsuit but they are usually filed after most discovery has been completed. In this case, discovery has barely started.

The motion has not yet been served on me so I don’t know the details. It is interesting though that up until this week, Coffey had apparently found no legal basis to have my claim thrown out. It’s also interesting that back in May, during a conference with the judge, Nichols – who was visibly angry at the way the conference was going – stated that she planned to file a motion to dismiss.

If she knew that back then, why wait until now, and then do it at the last minute, after twice scheduling a deposition?

It doesn’t make sense. Unless, as an attorney with a very weak defense, you do it in an act of desperation to at least delay the moment when the truth will come out.

The TU: What did they know
and when did they know it?

By David Baker
Posted August 19, 2007

Almost three years ago, in a posting on this page, I revealed how I had found that the Albany Times Union had for years ignored lawsuits filed against Capital Regions medical providers, which had run thousands of dollars of advertising in the TU. A letter sent at the time to the paper’s editor, Rex Smith asking for comment, never received a response.

Later I wrote on this page that Smith seemed to be divorced from reality, after he had written a column about a TU story that suggested Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno had acted improperly when he gave his son a loan.

Now it seems everyone is taking a hard look at the TU and asking about its ethics. The charge has been led by the New York Post and its state editor, Fred Dicker, who found serious problems with a TU story that claimed Bruno had improperly used state helicopters.That has led to questions about the TU’s involvement in the creation of state records to support its accusation, and about just how much Gov. Elliot Spitzer knew about the plot to destroy Bruno.

I was at Spitzer’s first public appearance after the Post’s story and I watched as the governor ducked questions about it, most of them from Dicker. And as Spitzer continues to duck, the questions keep coming. Albany County DA David Soares has started an investigation.

On Aug. 17, the state Ethics Commission served one of the TU’s reporters with a subpoena.And now the TU’s lawyer, Eve Barton, says the paper will fight to quash the subpoena. Which is just what she told me after I informed Smith that I might need to depose him in my case against Steve Coffey.

Deposition postponed
My deposition in my claim against Steve Coffey scheduled for Aug. 18 was postponed last week at the request of Coffey’s attorney. It is now set to take place on Wednesday, Aug. 22, which is one year to the day after Coffey called me at home and offered to take a look at a case that another attorney in his office had declined earlier in the year because of the firm’s workload.

As is alleged in detail in my lawsuit, Coffey’s real intention was to destroy my case, which he and co-defendant Brendan Tully then tried unsuccessfully to do.

The defendants’ lawyer will be asking all the questions this week but no one can do that without revealing something of their strategy. Just how Coffey and Tully plan to defend their well documented conduct will likely become apparent on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, my deposition by the defendants in my case against Samaritan Hospital is scheduled for Aug. 30. Maybe by then the hospital’s lawyer will tell me the legal last name of the nurse accused of causing the horrific injuries that led to Lisa’s death, something that she has so far refused to do.

Three years on
It was on Aug. 19, 2004 that this page first went up. It started as a way to document a simple question: Why did Lisa die? Since then it has grown and spread to present a small glimpse of how business is done in New York’s Capital Region. Incompetent, unethical lawyers, greedy, hypocritical politicians and a newspaper that has completely lost its integrity.

And the scary part is that most of the people involved seem to think it’s all normal.

Name withheld

Hospital lawyer stalls
on nurse’s name

By David Baker
Posted August 5, 2007

In an earlier post on this page it is reported that one of the nurses who treated Lisa on the night she was found almost dead and with a blood sugar level near zero appears to have used more than one name. The medical records are signed “Mary Ann Lee,” but when asked to provide the identities of the nurses working that night, an attorney for the hospital stated that this nurse’s name was “Salvana.”

So a month ago I served a discovery demand for documents that would likely establish this nurse’s legal last name, and perhaps explain the discrepancy. I asked for copies of her driver’s license, her Social Security card, a copy of any certificate of marriage (which might explain a name change) and of her New York state nursing license.

All of these (except the SS card) are public records. But Samaritan’s attorney – after waiting the full 30 days allowed for a response – provided none of them. On the driver’s license, the marriage certificate and the Social Security card, her response was that the demand was “improper and outside the scope of the CPLR” (the rules governing civil trials), without citing any such restriction.

As for the nursing license, 30 days apparently wasn’t enough time to obtain this document from her client; She merely stated that it would be provided “when it is received,” without giving any indication of when that will be.

Stonewalling, it seems, is the tactic being used here. Deny everything and provide nothing. Which says a lot both about the character of the attorney. And about her assessment of the strength of her defense.

Newspaper’s silence on lawsuits may go beyond the Capital Region

Meanwhile, a search of newspaper Web sites in cities in Texas, California and Washington state suggests that the Albany Times Union may not be the only Hearst Corp.-owned paper to ignore medical malpractice lawsuits.

A check of the achieves of its papers in San Antonio, San Francisco and Seattle has found no stories about claims against hospitals or doctors.

As was first reported here almost three years ago, the Times Union hasn’t reported such stories since the late 1990s, while at the same time running hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of advertising during that time for the area’s hospitals.

So it is a Hearst Corporation policy to suppress claims of medical harm filed against its advertisers? Stay tuned.

Finally, my lawsuit against Steve Coffey is moving along. My deposition is scheduled for August 16. Then, by the end of September, I get to grill Coffey and others, including my former attoeney, Cynthnia LaFave.

Attorneys look to put off
moment of reckoning

By David Baker
Posted July 16, 2007

The lawyers representing the defendants in Lisa’s wrongful death case wasted no time last week when they learned that the referee appointed by the court at their request had dropped out because his law firm has as a client the same insurance company as Samaritan Hospital: By the end of that day one of them had suddenly found unspecified “outstanding discovery disputes” and faxed out a letter suggesting that the case – including the deposition of the nurse who had Lisa as a patient the night she was injured – be put on hold for two months.

The lawyers – while maintaining that none of the defendants were responsible for the untimely and totally unexpected death – nevertheless seem to be doing everything they can to avoid revealing what happened at Samaritan Hospital on the night Lisa’s blood-sugar level dropped to near zero.

Meanwhile, the same lawyers were bobbing and weaving when it came to a request to produce a copies of all reports written by a doctor who was treating Lisa at the hospital. When they were first asked for the reports over a year ago, the response was “Tell us why you think we have them,” which is as about an evasive answer as is possible to give. Then, during a conference with the judge in May, all three lawyers acted shocked at my suggestion that they might have withheld any documents. Asked to state on the record that they not only did not have the documents but had never had them – because records have been known to disappear – one of the lawyers said, “I object to that; a second one said “I object also; while the third one said: “I take umbrage to that.”

But the judge was not about to dismiss the possibility that documents in lawsuits go missing. According to a transcript of the conversation, he then said: “Actually, I have had cases where medical records have disappeared, so I can’t tell ya his (my) statement is ridiculous.”

Finally, work is continuing on a Web site that will list medical malpractice lawsuits filed against healthcare providers in a part of the Capital Region. The new page will give some indication of the number of avoidable deaths and injuries that are alleged to have occurred in these medical facilities.

As has been reported here in numerous posts, the area's media stopped reporting these claims about 10 years ago – soon after Northeast Health took possession of Samaritan Hospital in Troy and Memorial Hospital in Albany. Since then Northeast has grown into the area's largest healthcare organization, with about 4,000 employees. During that time, the company has spent a significant amount for advertising – just how much, it won’t say – in the same media that has turned a blind eye to allegations of medical malpractice.

But the new Web page will likely reveal only a small percentage of the alledged harm: Two large studies have found that for each medical malpractice lawsuit filed, there are another seven cases that for various reasons never result in a lawsuit. So residents of the Capital Region will still get only a small part of the picture.

But that's more than they are getting now.

Former judge declines post

Referee cites conflict, drops out

By David Baker
Posted July 12, 2007

The retired judge who was appointed to referee the depositions in the case against Samaritan Hospital has dropped out – after discovering that the law firm he works for has represented the hospital’s medical malpractice insurance company in “many of their cases.”

The lawyer, former state Supreme Court Judge Robert Doran, had been appointed to oversee the depositions back in May. The appointment was made at the request of the lawyers representing the hospital, without any consultation or discussion with me. As I reported at the time, the judge agreed to the request without any discussion, and instantly appointed Doran.

But in a letter sent to the judge this week, Doran says he thinks someone else should get the job.

“It has come to my attention that the insurance carrier for the defendants is one that uses our law firm for many of its cases,” he writes. “Under the circumstances, I feel that a different referee should be appointed even if technically there may not be a conflict.”

Of course there would be a conflict. Which leaves me wondering about the integrity of this whole process – and just why the lawyers at the three firms fighting this claim feel they need a referee in the first place.


Meanwhile, my former lawyer, Cynthia LaFave, has hired an attorney to defend her in her deposition in my case against Steve Coffey.

Normally ‘non-party’ witnesses don’t need an attorney to represent them at a deposition – unless they feel they might be asked for information that could be used against them. Like defendants or witnesses in a criminal case, they can ‘take the fifth’ and refuse to answer a question, on the grounds that to do so might incriminate them.

The deposition of LaFave – and of Coffey and co-defendant Brendan Tully – will likely take place during August.

Attorney called on libel claim

Retraction and apology

By David Baker
Posted June 29, 2007

In two posting on this page, it was stated that Kathleen Ryan, an attorney representing Samaritan Hospital, Northeast Health Inc. and four nurses named in the lawsuit filed on behalf of Lisa’s estate was formerly Kathleen Dix, and that she was a friend of Lisa’s while at Keveny Academy in Cohoes.

In a letter received today an associate of Ms. Ryan states the following:

"Mr. Baker, Kathleen Ryan, the attorney representing Samaritan Hospital in this case is not Kathy Dix. She did not attend Keveny Academy. She was not ever married in Cohoes. More importantly, she is not an attorney who would ignore a conflict of interest by accepting representing as you have described."

In view of this information, I now retract in full the false statements made about Ms. Ryan on this blog and offer an unreserved apology for any embarrassment and damge to Ms. Ryan’s professional reputation they have caused.


Coming soon: a real source for lawsuit info

As has been pointed out on this page, for more than a decade newspapers in the Capital Region have routinely ignored medical malpractice lawsuits filed against the area’s medical providers.
Now there are plans for a Web page that will provide information on these lawsuits. In addition to a summary of the allegations in each suit, the page will later also allow the entire complaint and other public documents to be viewed in PDF format.

Thanks to two bad lawyers, the odds in my case are now overwhelming aganst me. But that doen't mean that Lisa's horrific, senseless and totally preventable death won't lead to something that will force these hospitals into taking steps to prevent it from happening again.

An Internet domain name has been secured and the page is under construction. Check back here later in the summer for more details.

Identity crisis

A nurse with two names?

By David Baker
Posted June 20, 2007

When asked to provide the name of the nurses who were on duty on the section of Samaritan Hospital’s fourth floor where Lisa was a patient on the evening she was injured, one of the name disclosed by the hospital’s lawyers was Mary Ann Lee Salvana. And that apparent last name – Salvana – is the one that was used to identify her in the second lawsuit in this case, filed in November of 2005.

Now it appears that Salvana is not her legal last name. A check of the New York state Education Department listing of registered nurses shows no RN with the last name Salvana.

But it does show a Mary Ann Salvana LEE.

According to the department, this Mary Ann Lee lives in Latham and was granted a professional nursing license on February 21, 2003, just under nine months before Lisa was found in her hospital bed near death, and with a blood sugar level near zero.

Confusing the matter further is the discovery of a Mary Ann Salvana on a Web site for Filipinos who are looking for romance in the United States. The listing is undated and could have been added to the site at any time since the site started in 1999.

It is known that one of the nurses working that night was Asian. The photograph accompanying this listing is of an Asian woman who appears to be about the age of the person identified by the hospital as one of Lisa’s nurses that evening.

This may or not be the Mary Ann who was working at Samaritan Hospital that night. But either way, because of inaccurate information provided to my former attorney by lawyers for the hospital, it appears that the lawsuit will now have to be amended to correctly identify one of the defendants in the case.

Obstruct and hide

Nothing to fear but the truth

By David Baker
Posted June 18, 2007

With the two lawsuits now moving along, it’s time to wonder why the defendants in both cases are so nervous.

In my case against Samaritan Hospital, the lawyers for the defendants apparently feel they need help. During a conference they requested with Saratoga County Supreme Court Judge Stephen Ferradino last month, one of the three attorneys told Ferradino that she was concerned about what might happen during depositions in the case. The lawyer then went on to suggest that a referee be appointed for this taking of testimony under oath.

Normally, depositions are taken without a judge present. An attorney representing the deponent can object to a question, but the witness usually has to answer it. Later, if the other side wants to cite the answer at trial, a judge, after reviewing all the deponent’s testimony, will rule on whether that part of the transcript can be used.

But these attorneys apparently would like to edit their clients’ testimony as it is given. So they want a judge to be there to make an immediate ruling on any objection the defense lawyer wants to make.

This will mean that they could be many questions that will not be answered, avenues of inquiry that will not be explored, because the defense can claim that the answer would be irrelevant, or that the question is improper on any one of many other grounds.

The defense lawyers did not do me the professional courtesy of informing me of their request prior to the conference, so I had no time to consider its implications. I was blinded-sided. But the judge, without any hesitation, agreed to the request. He even already had a specific person in mind who could be the referee; retired Supreme Court judge Robert Doran.

It has been hard to shake the uneasy feeling that there had been some discussion about this request before the conference started.

At the depositions, I will be entirely on my own. I have no legal training and never went to college. I never even went to a high school or grade school.

But the three defense firms will have at least three lawyers there, probably more, all with years of training and experience, all of them backed by the virtually unlimited resources of an immensely wealthy insurance company. And they want a referee.

So what are they so afraid of?

In my case against lawyer and media star Steve Coffey, I can serve subpoenas on anyone who I believe has information that might support my claims. Last week I wrote to Times Union Editor Rex Smith, asking him to let me know of any dates in the next couple of months when he would not be available for a deposition.

Smith’s paper did not report my case against Coffey. My lawsuit in part alleges a conspiracy. And for years it has ignored virtually every medical malpractice lawsuit filed against Capital Region hospitals, hospitals that during that time have run hundreds of thousand of dollars’ worth of ads in its pages.

Does Smith think this is serving the public’s interest? Or is it his company’s profits that he is placing first? Isn’t he in league with the hospitals and the lawyers when his paper suppresses stories that might force the medical community to reduce errors instead of trying to cover them up?

So what was the response to my letter from the man who is always boasting in print about his mission to get the truth? He contacted the newspaper’s lawyers in New York City, one of whom called to tell me in no uncertain terms that she would fight – and block – any attempt to get Smith’s testimony.

What is he so afraid of?

But as all this goes on, pushed aside are the questions that are being deliberately obstructed in this legal tangle: What happened on the night of November 10th and 11th 2003 in room 18 on the fourth floor of Samaritan Hospital? Why was a diabetic patient who had already had an insulin reaction that evening left unchecked until her blood sugar fell to the point that she stopped breathing, and as a result, despite frantic efforts to resuscitate her, received horrific injuries that left her in a irreversible coma? Was she given insulin during that evening, even though her blood-sugar level never came anywhere near the point at which insulin was ordered? And if not, what is the hospital’s explanation for the sudden plunge in blood sugar?

Why did the evening nurses not follow the hospital’s own printed instructions for dealing with a insulin reaction, even though a doctor’s note in the chart specifically told them to do so? What was defendant nurse Mary Ann Lee Salvana told about her patient when she came on duty? Did she see the warning in the chart that Lisa might become hypoglycemic? What was this RN doing between midnight and 2:07 a.m., as Lisa’s blood sugar and her heart rate dropped and her life ebbed away?

Those are some of the questions I want answered.

That’s what this is all about. The truth.

And that’s what these people are so afraid of.

Court schedules set

Conferences held in two related lawsuits

By David Baker
Posted June 10, 2007

During the past month, there have been developments in both the case against Samaritan Hospital and the one against Steve Coffey.

On May 17, a conference took place in the chambers of Albany County state Supreme Court Judge Leslie Stein. During the conference, a schedule was set up for the nest steps in the case.

Meanwhile, a response to a discovery demand I served on the defendants back in April is now a month overdue.

In the case against the hospital, a conference took place on May 17 at the courthouse in Ballston Spa. I had asked for it in an attempt to get the lawyers representing the hospital to turn over highly relevant medical records I believe are been withheld from me.

During the conference, Kathleen Ryan, one of the attorneys for the hospital, told the judge that I had "libeled" her on this weblog. She didn’t say which statement she considers libelous and she has not responded to a written request to explain her allegation. Nevertheless, she may soon find herself facing the same question, this time under oath. I have informed her that I intend to subpoena her for a disposition in the case against Steve Coffey.

Killings raise questions


Not all senseless
deaths are the same
By David Baker
Posted Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The massacre at Virginia Tech is a tragedy beyond comprehension, and yet another reminder of the consequences of America's obsession with guns. But as this terrible story gets almost non-stop news coverage, let's not forget that in the same day that 33 people were killed on that college campus, an estimated 120 people died in the U.S. as a result of entirely preventable medical errors.

That carnage went almost unnoticed. And instead of crises teams to help the bereaved, the medical institutions and their immensely wealthy insurance companies have ready an army of lawyers to beat off anyone who asks the same questions the relatives of the victims of Monday's rampage are asking:

What happened? Why?

Meanwhile, despite all the talk about reducing harm, the number of deaths and injuries in hospitals stays about the same, while politicians and the media put thier own interests first and look the other way.

Which makes all of them just as callous and uncaring as the person who ended young lives Monday in the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia.

Doctors' records go online

The following has just been reported by Business Wire:

HealthGrades launches first physician
malpractice database for the public

Records include data from 15 States, including New York

But 35 states and the federal government (and some newspapers) choose not to report malpractice data

HealthGrades, the nation’s leading independent health care ratings company, has compiled the first national database of physician malpractice records available to the public. Detailed information on medical malpractice judgments, settlements and arbitration awards against physicians in 15 states - including New York - is now available on-line, at, as part of HealthGrades’ physician quality reports for consumers.

The database combines, for the first time, all available public malpractice records. It also includes the amount or range of payment and whether the resolution was a judgment, settlement, or the result of arbitration. In HealthGrades’ data set, approximately three percent of physicians have a malpractice settlement or judgment on their record over the years 2001-2005. That number is likely higher as HealthGrades data is based on state records, some of which contain thresholds for reporting claims.

Most physicians who have experienced a malpractice judgment or settlement are still practicing without disciplinary action by a state medical board, a set of information already available in HealthGrades’ physician reports. Of the 35,000 doctors who have had two or more malpractice payouts since 1990, only 7.6 percent of them have been disciplined, and only 13 percent of doctors with five medical malpractice payouts have been disciplined, according to data from the National Practitioner Data Bank, a government malpractice database not available to the general public.

Yet, until now, the public has had only limited access to physician malpractice judgment and settlement data, primarily through the individual state agencies that report the information.

"Now consumers have access to all available physician malpractice information in one place, helping them identify doctors who may have trouble spots in their past -- even if the physician currently practices in a state where malpractice information is not publicly reported," said Sarah Loughran, HealthGrades executive vice president.

But challenges remain in increasing consumers’ access to physician malpractice records. For example, among the states that do report physician malpractice data, there is wide variation in how much information is provided, and how long it stays on a physician’s record.

"We commend the states that report this important information and we are pleased to provide this to the consumers searching for doctors using HealthGrades. But huge gaps in our knowledge of malpractice activity remain," Loughran said. "We encourage the 35 states that do not report malpractice data and the federal government to consider making this valuable information available to consumers."

HealthGrades has added malpractice data for physicians in the following states: California, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, North Dakota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Tennessee, Virginia, Vermont and West Virginia.

In HealthGrades’ data set, the five medical specialties with the highest percentage of malpractice incidents are, in rank order: bariatric surgery, maternal fetal medicine, neurosurgery, obstetrics and gynecology, and cardiothoracic surgery.

The malpractice information is being added to what is already the most robust online resource for consumers researching physicians. The physician-quality reports that HealthGrades offers to consumers on nearly every practicing physician in the country – about 700,000 – contain data on their medical training, board certification, sanctions by medical boards in any of the 50 states, quality ratings of nearby hospitals, patient-satisfaction ratings and more.

Coffey pays up

Small claim settled

It took four months and a court judgement but Albany attorney Steve Coffey has now paid the $300 awarded to me by a Small Claims Court judge.

Response served to lawsuit

Coffey claims he never said his
firm was considering Lisa's case

By David Baker
Posted March 18, 2007

An acknowledgment has been received to the lawsuit filed against attorney Steve Coffey and his firm, O’Connell & Aronowitz. The 6-page legal document, known as an answer, was served on March 14.

The document is a standard response to a lawsuit. In it, a defendant briefly either admits or denies each of the allegations in the complaint.

In this one, Coffey – who signed the answer – denies that his firm ever indicated that it was considering taking over the case.

This after it had requested and received from me $1,500 for a review of the medial records, and had asked in two letters to the court for an extension of the stay so that it could assess the case.

So what were they doing for two months, while the defense lawyers were filing motions to have the case thrown out? Apparently nothing, which is exactly what is claimed in my lawsuit.

Meanwhile, settlement of the Small Claims Court judgment against Coffey's firm has been held up because the U.S. Post Office has lost a letter.

On March 10, I mailed to Coffey a signed and notarized release of claim. The letter was sent Certified Mail, but a week later the Post Office has no record of the item after it was accepted in Waterford. It apparently never arrived at the mail facility in Albany and as of March 17, no one knows where it is.

News judgment questioned

Rapist’s allegations get quick attention

By David Baker
Posted Sunday, March 11, 2007

It’s been over a month since my lawsuit against attorneys Steve Coffey and Brendan Tully was filed. But so far, it has not been mentioned in Albany’s Hearst newspaper, the Times Union.

But then I have never raped a 14-year-old girl. Or anyone else.

Darius Ashley has, not once but twice. He got 25 years for it. And in mid February a story about his hand-written lawsuit, in which he claims to have been brutalized by sheriff’s deputies, was in the paper less than 24 hours after it was filed.

Ashley, who is 31, also attacked another girl, but she managed to get away.

He is also a suspect in the stabbing death of Hackett Middle School student Gretchem Perham, whose body was tossed down an embankment in Albany’s South End in May 2005.

The reporter, Michele Morgan Bolton, was either at the county clerk’s office when the suit was filed, or she somehow got a copy ahead of time and filed her story as soon as the papers were stamped. Either way, she and the paper wasted no time getting this creep’s claims into print.

She also spent time trying to get comments from Sheriff James Campbell, and acting Albany County Public Defender George Mehm, who had represented Ashley.

After my – carefully typed – lawsuit was filed, I sent an e-mail to Bolton, pointing out that the claims of a serial rapist seemed to be regarded more highly than someone who has not broken the law. I never got a reply. So I don’t know if she wanted to write about my case but was stopped, or if she already knew such a story would not be printed.

For years, the Times Union has demonstrated its true “news judgment” by ignoring dozen of lawsuits alleging malpractice and wrongful death filed against the area’s medical providers – providers who have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in advertising revenue with the paper But now it is displaying a new bias.

One that gives a convicted child rapist a special priority.

Send in the bailiffs!

Coffey debt goes to collection

By David Baker
Posted March 4, 2007

At the end of January, a Small Claims Court judge gave Steve Coffey’s law firm 30 days to reimburse me the $300 due to three attorneys representing defendants in Lisa’s wrongful death case against Samaritan Hospital.

The firm, O’Connell & Aronowitz, has not made payment, despite a letter sent Certified Mail demanding settlement of the judgment. This means that I can and will now take steps to enforce payment, which can include seizure of assets from the debtor.

The money, $100 to each of the defending firms, was incurred when Coffey failed to carry out a state Supreme Court judge’s instructions to notify the three attorneys that he was reviewing Lisa's case with a view to taking it over. As a result, each of the firms made a written request to the court to dismiss the case.

The request was denied after I filed an affidavit opposing the defendants’ motions.

As is reported on this page, Coffey’s actions at that time are now the basis of a lawsuit I filed against the attorney and his firm in February. A response to the suit is due by March 14.

Sheriff denies charges

The following story appeared on March 3 on a California newspaper's Web page:

Sheriff denies hiding medical errors

County's top cop says coverup claim false
By Brian Hamlin/Senior Staff Writer

Responding to a recent federal lawsuit charging that the Solano County Sheriff-Coroner's Office intentionally has covered up medical errors causing the death of a patient, Sheriff Gary Stanton on Friday denied the charges as "absolutely false."

Stanton, and Contra Costa County Sheriff-Coroner Warren E. Rupf, on Monday were named in a federal civil rights suit charging that they misused their coroner positions to assist hospitals - specifically Kaiser Permanente medical centers - in covering up treatment errors that resulted in death.

Two patient deaths were cited in the lawsuit filed by Berkeley attorney William Campisi Jr. - those of 53-year-old Larry Linchner in Solano County and a 41-year-old man identified only as "Mr. Miller" in Contra Costa County.

Linchner reportedly died in 2003 after seeking treatment for a broken elbow at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Vallejo and Miller died in 2001 after going to Kaiser Walnut Creek Medical Center for care of a ruptured Achilles tendon.

In both cases, the suit alleges, the sheriff-coroners' offices, their deputies and a private contract firm, Forensic Medical Group, Inc., engaged in negligent and reckless handling of evidence as part of a coverup to protect healthcare facilities that might be exposed to liability for causing the death of patients.

Stanton vehemently denied that his office had ever engaged in any medical coverup.

"No member of the Solano County Sheriff's Office is involved in any conspiracy to assist Kaiser Hospital or any other medical services provider in covering up evidence of medical malpractice. To the contrary, as the coroner of Solano County, my obligation is to investigate and report any suspicion of medical malpractice.

"I have no knowledge," Stanton added, "of any contractual agreement between Forensic Medical Group and Kaiser Hospital. If such an agreement does exist, it exists for the sole purpose of providing Kaiser Hospital much needed professional forensic pathology services."

The suit, on behalf of plaintiffs Schwartz as well as Jennifer Miller and Mary Ann Vargas, is on file in United States Northern District Court in San Francisco. No hearing date has yet been assigned to the case.

Lawsuit delivered

Coffey lawsuit served

By David Baker
Posted Sunday, February 25, 2007

The lawsuit against attorney Stephen Coffey has been served

The summons and complaint was delivered to the law firm on Wednesday afternoon. The defendants now have 20 days to respond.

The lawsuit, which was filed on February 7 in Albany County, accuses Coffey, attorney Brendan J. Tully and others of deliberately delaying a review of Lisa's wrongful death case until a court-ordered stay ran out and the case could be dismissed.

The 15-page complaint also names as defendants the law firm of O'Connell & Aronowitz and other defendants whose identities are not yet known.

The entire document is now available on line as a PDF download. Simply send a request by e-mail to the following address and the summons and the complaint will sent back as an e-mail attachment.

The address is:

Meanwhile, the firm has yet to pay a Small Claims Court judgment obtained on January 29. The judgment is for $300, the amount that the judge in Lisa's case against Samaritan Hospital and others ordered paid to each of three defense firms for the cost of motions that were filed as a result of Coffey's failure to notify the firms of his interest in the case.

The money is due to be paid Wednesday, February 28. After that, judgment can and will be entered against the firm and steps taken to compel payment.

"The Man" hits back - at himself

Coffey’s admission is no small loss

Posted by David Baker, Jan. 30, 2007

The Notice of Judgment from Albany Small Claim Court says that the law firm of O’Connell and Aronowitz – Steve Coffey’s firm – must pay the $300 that was incurred as a result of the firm’s failure to inform three other law firms that it was reviewing the case of the estate of Lisa Baker Vs. Samaritan Hospital.

The money – $100 to each of the three firms – was part of the cost to the firms of preparing motions to dismiss the two lawsuits that allege the defendants’ caused Lisa’s death because of their medical malpractice in 2003. The motions were denied back in November, but the court awarded costs to the three firms and it was paid to them in the last week of December.

At the Small Claims Court hearing, no one appeared on first call behalf of Steve Coffey’s firm. The procedure then is to delay the case for a second “calendar call” an hour later. If a defendant does not appear for the second call, judgment can then go to the plaintiff by default.

At the second call, still no one answered for O’Connell and Aronowitz. But then a man in a suit who had been sitting in the court room stood and told Jjudge Helena Heath-Roland that he was with another law firm – Tobin and Demph – and that he had taken it upon himself to contact Steve Coffey’s office and tell them that a case against them was proceeding without them.

Despite an objection, the judge decided to wait for a call from Coffey’s office. A short time later, the judge resumed the case and told the court she had just received a letter faxed from O’Connell and Aronowitz, and that based on the letter, judgment would be awarded against the firm.

The letter was dated that day and signed by Coffey himself. It says:

RE: David Baker v. O’Connell & Aronowitz.
“Dear Clerk: I am informed that Mr. Baker has been required to pay costs of $100 to three separate local law firms in relation to the above reference matter. This office will pay the $300 to the firms, or, in the alternative hold Mr. Baker harmless for the debt. As such, I will not be appearing this morning in Court. Very truly yours, Stephen R. Coffey”

Not explained is why the people at the firm were apparently unaware of the Small Claims Court summons until a bystander took it upon himself to call them. Or why it took a summons to get them to admit responsibility for the costs, even though they were first asked for the money back in early December.

Could it be that they handle cases against themselves just as badly as they handled their review of Lisa Baker’s case? The events of January 29th certainly don’t make them look too competent.

In an unrelated story this week, the Albany Times Union referred to Coffey as a “high powered attorney.” But Monday morning probably was the first time the famous lawyer has been recorded as having made an appearance in a case in Small Claims Court.

Attorney’s angry response can only help

Posted by David Baker, January 14, 2007

The open letter to attorney Stephen Coffey that appears in full on this page has drawn an amazing response from The Man himself. In a letter to me dated January 8, Coffey lashes out at what he calls "...your reckless and unwarranted assaults upon me and my office," and threatens legal action against me. But then, referring to the $100 that the court ordered me to pay to each of the three law firms representing Samaritan Hospital and the other defendants, he goes on to say that his office is "…in the process of either paying the $300 or getting the acknowledgment from the Defense that such money would not be due and owing. Under no circumstances would you be liable for that charge."

In other words, he admits that his firm was negligent when it failed to comply with the judge’s directive to make a written request to the court for an extension of the stay, and that a copy of the request be sent to each of the defense lawyers.

Because no such letter was sent until after the existing stay had expired (even though Coffey’s office had told me in writing that it had been), all three defense firms filed motions to have the case thrown out of court. It was the cost of preparing these unnecessary motions that I was ordered to pay by the end of December (which I did).
I also made a written request to Coffey back on December 19 that he reimburse me the money. When there was no response, I filed a claim against Coffey’s firm in Small Claims Court. That claim is scheduled to go before a judge on Jan. 29.

As well as wanting the $300 back, I also was looking for either a ruling from a judge that Coffey’s firm was liable for the costs – and therefore had been negligent – or, if Coffey did not oppose my claim, in effect an acknowledgment from the firm of its negligence.

Now I have something even better: A written admission from Coffey himself that he failed to handle the matter properly.

And as I have stated previously (and will allege in court papers), I don’t think it was just negligence. I believe the facts will show that Coffey and his associate, Brendan Tully, were trying to destroy my case.

Their only defense now is to plead either stunning incompetence or a total indifference to the interests of a potential client.

And Coffey is threatening to sue me?

Judge denies motion to dismiss

One legal claim filed; more pending

By David Baker

In the last week of the old year, an action was filed in Small Claims Court in Albany County, claiming $300 plus costs from the law firm of O’Connell & Aronowitz.

The $300 was the amount awarded in costs to the three law firms representing defendants in the lawsuits filed on behalf of Lisa Baker against Samaritan Hospital and others, alleging medical malpractice and wrongful death.

As is reported below, a state Supreme Court judge ordered me to pay $100 to each of the defending attorneys, even as he stated in his decision that it was “…Mr. Coffey’s sluggishness in attending to the Court’s request..” that caused the costs to be incurred.

Coffey has ignored a written request for reimbursement of the money, which has already been paid to the defendants. The claim is scheduled for trial on January 29.

Meanwhile, a much bigger claim against both the law firm and some of its members is now being prepared. The complaint will allege that Coffey, Brendan J. Tully and others conspired to deprive me of my constitutional right to the legal process, and that their outrageous conduct was the direct cause of severe mental and emotional anguish.

Following that, a separate claim alleging breach of contract, negligence and legal malpractice is planned against Delmar attorney Cynthia S. LaFave. That suit will allege that LaFave abandoned my lawsuits against the hospital without telling me, showed a total disregard for the interests of her client, and repeatedly obstructed the transfer of the case to a new attorney.

It has become apparent over the past three years that, in a broader sense, a lot of people are a part of a wider, unspoken conspiracy, a covert agreement that includes not just the lawyers, but also politicians who take contributions from hospitals while keeping regulations weak, and newspapers editors, who have routinely suppressed stories about medical errors while taking in hundreds of thousands of dollars in advertising from hospitals.

The proposed lawsuits may well shine a light on this unconscionable alliance, an alliance from which everyone benefits. Accept, of course, the estimated seven thousand people who die each year as a result of preventable medial mistakes in the state’s hospitals.

Big-name lawyer almost kills Lisa’s lawsuit

By David Baker

Posted on December 3, 2006

It has been a while since news of Lisa’s case was posted here. But behind the scenes a lot has been going on.

With a 90-day hold placed on the lawsuit in July when attorney Cynthia LaFave had the Court remove her from the case, the search was on for another attorney. A number of firms were contacted but for various reasons, each of them declined to take over the lawsuit, or, in some cases, even look at it.

Then in August I received a call from well known attorney Stephen Coffey. Mr. Coffey is with the Albany law firm of O’Connell & Aronowitz. I had already contacted this firm earlier this year but had been told in April that the firm was too busy to take my case.

Now out of the blue Steve Coffey was on the phone. He said he didn’t know if anyone had called me back, but he was now able to take a look at my case, and that I should make an appointment to go in and see him.

This I did at the end of August. Mr. Coffey said he would need to take a look at Ms. LaFave’s legal file on the case, and that he would contact her to arrange it.

Two weeks later, I received a letter from a Brendan Tully of the firm, explaining that I would be required to pay $1,500 for a review of the medical records by an expert. I mailed a check the next day.

And that was the start of a series of bizarre events that continued up to and past a court-imposed deadline for either proceeding with the case or having it dismissed – completely and permanently ended – for a failure to prosecute.

Calls were not returned. A letter that a judge had told Mr. Coffey to send in was not sent. Mr. Coffey never did inspect the legal file. And Lisa’s medical records were never sent to an expert for a review.

At the end of November, in response to a letter from me expressing concerns about this apparent negligence, Mr. Coffey sent back Lisa’s medical file, along with a brief letter in which he said he doesn’t want the case. That prompted me to write the following letter to the firm:


Mr. Stephen Coffey, Esq.,
O’Connell & Aronowitz
54 State Street
Albany, NY 12207

RE: Estate of Lisa Baker Vs. Samaritan Hospital, et al

Dear Mr. Coffey:

I have received your letter with the enclosed medical chart and your firm’s check refunding the money I paid for an expert’s review of my wife’s medical record.

In a cruel twist, your letter rejecting my case arrived three years to the day after Lisa, an insulin-dependent diabetic, died at Samaritan Hospital in Troy. As you know, her death came three weeks after she was found in her hospital bed at 2 a.m. with no pulse and a blood sugar level of just 2.

So you don’t want the case. But fortunately for me, your attempt to get it dismissed failed.

And that I now believe was your intention all along. Right from when you placed a call to me out of the blue back on August 22, offering to take a look at a case your office had already considered and declined.

That is a very serious allegation. But there is ample documentation to back it up. And I find it highly significant that you make no attempt to explain the series of events that caused me to express my concerns over the way your firm has handled this matter.

* Such as stating to me in writing that you had sent a letter to the Court requesting an extension of a stay on the case when you knew or should have known that no letter had been sent.

* Such as telling me twice over the past month that you were about to review my file at the office of my former attorney and then not going there.

* Such as having your associate Brendan Tully, on the day before the return date for a motion to dismiss all my claims, urge me not to file an affidavit in opposition to the motion, while failing to inform me that your firm had not followed the judge’s directive that you send the Court a written request for a stay with copies to the defendants.

* Such as, after asking for and receiving from me in mid September the sum of $1,500 for an expert’s review of the medical records, not sending the file to any expert.

And why would you? You were just stalling, running out the clock, assuming – correctly – that I would not continue to look for another attorney. You fully expected the case to be dismissed. And it probably would have been, had I not ignored Mr. Tully’s advice and served an opposing affidavit on the attorneys for the defendants.

So now, despite your efforts, my lawsuit is still alive. And one day, when it’s over, a book laying out the incredible story of this case will be out there for all to read. Some big names are already a part of it: Joe Bruno. Fred Dicker. And Times Union Editor Rex Smith.

But my guess is that the Coffey chapter will be the one that really gets people talking. A famous name alledgedly gone bad always helps when it comes time to promote a publication.

Very truly yours,

David Baker
Administrator of the estate of Lisa M. Baker

PS – You owe me $300 for costs assessed by the Court for the unnecessary motions that were filed as a result of your failure to inform the defendants of your involvement in the case. Your check can be sent to me at the address above. And no, I will not sign any kind of release to get it.