Lisa Zenzen Baker, 1961-2003


Monday, January 23, 2012

Silence briefly broken

A rarity: A medical malpractice
story lawsuit in a newspaper

By David Baker
Posted Monday, Jan. 23, 2012

On Sunday, the Albany Times Union did something very unusual: it ran a story about a medical malpractice lawsuit against a Capital District hospital.

But the case itself was unusual, in that it went to a jury. Only a tiny fraction of such cases go to trial because, while medical providers routinely fight almost every claim – even when they know they are liable – they seldom risk the uncertainty of a jury verdict and the possible resulting publicly. Instead, they use every available means of obstruction and delay and, only when all those tactics are exhausted and a trial is imminent, will they settle.

Settlements often take place about month before the date of a trial. It’s at that point that the documents generated by a long legal fight have to be filed with the court. And once the case is over, those previously private documents go to the county clerk’s office, where they are available to the public.

In the case reported this week, a Greene County jury found Albany Medical Center Hospital liable for the death of Town of Windham Supervisor Thomas P. Meehan. According to testimony, Meehan, who was 61, died in the hospital in November 2009 as a result of a blockage caused by blood clots that traveled from the site of a hip replacement surgery to his lungs. Blood clots are common following certain types of surgery. The jury found that a doctor employed by the hospital, Aniko Felligi, failed to order scans that would have detected the clots despite classic symptoms of a blockage.

It awarded Meehan’s estate $1.4 million.

Albany Medical Center is reportedly self insured but even if it wasn’t, an appeal of the amount of the award is virtually certain.

The lawsuit was filed in 2010. A check of the Times Union’s archives produced no previous mention of the claim. Meanwhile, as was reported in an earlier post on this page, details of another lawsuit with very similar allegations also have not been mentioned by the area’s print media.