Lisa Zenzen Baker, 1961-2003


Friday, November 11, 2005

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.