Lisa Zenzen Baker, 1961-2003


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Case over

Hospital settles leg-damage lawsuit

By David Baker
Posted Tuesday March 26, 2013
398 words

A long-running lawsuit previously reported here has resulted in a settlement by Albany Memorial Hospital, while claims against an outside medical group have been dropped and a claim against an anesthesiologist has been dismissed.

The lawsuit was brought by Karen Rogers in 2008.  In it, she claimed that she was left with permanent injuries after nursing staff at Memorial failed to monitor her for a condition called compartment syndrome, in which swelling occurs after surgery or an injury.  Without immediate treatment, it can cause serious damage.

According to the suit, in November 2005 Rogers went to the emergency room at Memorial Hospital after falling from a step ladder, where a physician found two fractures in her right leg.  In an emergency department report, the physician noted that the patient should be evaluated for compartment syndrome.

The next day Rogers underwent surgery for the two fractures, after which the surgeon wrote orders for the pain medication Demerol, and for an elastic stocking and a compression boot to be placed on the left leg, the one that had not been broken.

But, according to the suit, the stocking and the boot were put on the right, injured leg.

The surgeon also ordered checks for symptoms of compartment syndrome to be done every hour overnight.  But no check was done between 11 p.m. and 8 the next morning – which also is a violation of the hospital’s own protocol which requires the checks every four hours.

During the night, Rogers complained of increasing numbness and excruciating pain in her leg – both symptoms of compartment syndrome – but allegedly was told by nursing staff that  “she would have to make do with the pain medication that had already been prescribed.”

The next morning the surgeon examined Rogers and ordered immediate surgery to relieve the pressure.  According to the complaint, this required four, 8-inch incisions and left her partly lame and with permanent scars.

By the time the lawsuit was filed in 2008, the state Health Department had cited Memorial, issuing a ‘statement of deficiencies’ for its care of Rogers.

The lawsuit named two physicians, a medical group and members of its staff.  Claims against all of them were dropped.  A claim against an anesthesiologist and his practice was dismissed by the court.

Albany Memorial Hospital settled the case for an undisclosed sum.

The initial story is HERE

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The opposite of sorry

Delays a tactic in malpractice defense

Legal filings show how hospitals fight claims
not by revealing facts but by withholding them

By David Baker
Posted Thursday March 21, 2013
1,221 words

This is an update on a claim against St. Peter’s Hospital first reported here on November 3 2012, in which Angela and Gordon  Ryan of Mechanicville claim that Angela Ryan was injured by morphine following surgery.  The suit, filed in 2007, alleges that hospital staff improperly programmed a medication dispenser, causing Ryan to receive an excessive amount of the drug.

As in other cases against medical providers, court documents show a defense marked by obstruction and delay.

According to legal papers, after the surgery and while on the IV dispenser, Ryan “…was found with a bluish coloration of the skin, around her lips and eyes and could not be roused.  Plaintiff was given Narcan to address the adverse reaction to the morphine and a ‘respiratory-go-to’ was called.”

The case is scheduled to go to trial before state Supreme Court Justice Eugene Devine in Albany County on June 10.  It was filed in October 2007. 

Legal papers contain allegations that Ryan’s medical chart for the time she was a patient have not been provided to her attorneys 18 months after they were requested, nor had written responses to questions and information about the medication pump.

Court rules usually require such information to be provided within 30 days.

The Ryans’ attorney is Thomas Conway of Conway & Kirby in Latham, NY.  Earlier this year, another case filed by Conway alleged that Samaritan Hospital in Troy was negligent when it granted and repeatedly renewed privileges to gynecologist Akiva Abraham when it knew or should have known he was unfit to practice.

The case was brought by Susan Stalker of Waterford, who alleged that Abraham left her disfigured when he removed a large amount of healthy issue from her breast without her knowledge or permission during what was scheduled to be a simple biopsy.  The case was settled in July on the first day of trial after six years of legal maneuvering.  It has been reported exclusively in several stories here, beginning with an in-depth account of the case in February 2012 on this blog’s sister web site.  A link to that story appears below.

In the Ryan case, Conway wrote to attorney Richard MaGuire of D’Agostino, Krackeler & Maguire, who is representing St. Peter’s Hospital, on Dec. 15, 2010, about the demanded information.

“…I note that on November 8, 2010, our office requested a Verified Bill of Particulars [written responses to questions] from your client with respect to plaintiff’s demand dated May 5, 2009.  To date, we have not received same.

“Also, on November 8, 2010, our office requested a complete copy of our client’s chart from St. Peter’s Hospital for her April 11, 2005 to April 16, 2005 admission – the one at issue in this litigation.  This has yet to be provided to us although we demanded it back on May 5, 2009.”

Conway also wrote about the medication dispenser.

“Further, plaintiff’s continue to request any information with respect to the PCA [patient controlled analgesic unit] used at the time of the incident.  It is hard to imagine that there is no record at defendant’s hospital indicting the specific PCA used on the plaintiff and how much morphine she was given via the PCA and how much was not used, especially in view of the fact that this is and was a controlled substance.”

Conway goes on to write about an attempt begun more than a year earlier to schedule depositions:

“To date we have not received any date from your office and no witnesses have been identified from the list we provided your office … Please advise our office as soon as possible as to the identity of the witnesses we requested, along with dates that you, or another attorney in your office, can be available to cover these depositions. If we do not hear back from you in a timely manner, we will have no choice but to request a conference and ask the judge to assist us in scheduling these depositions.”

But the information on the medication pump still was not provided; Conway later filed papers asking the judge to compel responses from St. Peter’s Hospital, or, if they were not provided, to disregard the hospital’s initial response to the lawsuit – meaning that it would be deemed to have not denied any of the allegations.

St. Peter’s response was to ask the judge to remove Conway’s entire firm from the case, on the ground the it had hired an attorney, Kimberly Sack, 
who had previously worked for the law firm representing the hospital.

In a response opposing the hospital’s motion, Sack stated that she had limited contact with the Ryan file, preparing only two routine documents, had left the defense firm two months after handing the file, did not see confidential information and could not recall any details, according to Justice Devine’s decision.  “Moreover,” Devine wrote, “Conway states that the firm made concerted efforts to insulate Sack from any work that involve contact with her former law firm or clients, including a prohibition on any discussions with fellow attorneys and staff about matters that involved D’Agostino.”

In its response, St. Peter’s Hospital also said that Conway’s motion should be denied because Conway had not made a good faith effort to resolve the dispute.  But Devine disagreed.

“The record is replete with plaintiff’s attempts to resolve the matter without resorting to motion practice,” he wrote. “Only after phone calls went unreturned and repeated written requests to defendant’s attorney for additional discovery responses were given scant response was the instant motion made by plaintiffs.”

On the matter of the medication pump, Devine wrote that the hospital had stated that all such pumps were destroyed in 2007 but that it was not clear from the record if the pump used by Ryan was destroyed before or after the hospital become aware that the unit was an issue in the case.

Conway claimed that among the documents that were not provided but should exist were any records documenting an adverse reaction to a drug.

“Likewise,” Devine wrote, “plaintiff asserted that defendant is obligated, under the directives contained in defendant’s own PCA protocol, to make certain recordings, in a patient’s record, including recording of wasted drug on the Controlled Drug Administration Record; a recording of prefilled [drug] bags, the initial bolus dose and the number of volume and doses at four-hour intervals on the Intravenous PCA Medication Record, among other things.”

Devine ordered that Conway’s motion to disregard St. Peter’s initial denial would be granted if the hospital did not produce people for deposition.  He denied the request that Conway’s firm be removed from the case.

In early February, the hospital served another motion, according to an entry on the court system’s web page, asking for the whole case to be thrown out.  A decision would normally be due within 60 days after Conway’s response.

Susan Stalker V. Samaritan Hospital and Akiva Abraham

The earlier Ryan lawsuit story

The Ryan lawsuit against St. Peter’s Hospital was filed in 2007.  In a merger last year, the hospital joined Northeast Health Inc. and Seton Health under a single governing body with the name St. Peter’s Health Partners.

Seton Health operates St. Mary’s Hospital in Troy.  Northeast Health operates Samaritan Hospital in Troy, Albany Memorial Hospital, Sunnyview Rehabilitation Hospital in Niskayuna, several nursing homes and assisted living facilities and a network of clinics

The announcement of the merger came a few months after these hospitals (and one other hospital not a part of the consolidation) agreed to pay $9 million to settle a class action lawsuit in which they were accused of conspiring to keep nurses’ pay  at the same level, thus eliminating competition.

Northeast Health was the first to settle, paying $1.25 million while admitting no wrongdoing but agreeing to provide documents and allow staff members to be deposed in the claim that continued against the other hospitals

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Motion pending

Judge’s decision awaited in
hospital’s web page claim

By David Baker
Posted Tuesday March 19, 2013
256 words

The lawsuit in which Samaritan Hospital is seeking to stop the use of the Internet domain name ‘northeasthealthclaims on a page that lists unreported medical-malpractice lawsuits filed against Capital District providers is on hold pending a decision by the judge on a request for an order compelling the hospital to provide information on its advertising and public-relations spending.

The motion was filed in September after Samaritan Hospital refused to hand over copies of documents showing how much it has spent promoting its public image.

In its lawsuit, the hospital claims its reputation has been damaged by the use of the domain name, and by a logo that until February 2012 appeared on the site.

After the motion was filed, Samaritan’s lawyers said in a cross motion opposing the motion to compel that “ a matter of practicality and to permit this case to be ready for trial..” they were dropping most of their claims.  But they still want an injunction as well as their legal fees.

A decision by Acting Supreme Court Justice Andrew G. Ceresia is pending.

Both remaining claims will be opposed.  In addition, the fact that Samaritan has now dropped most of its demands leaves it exposed to a claim that its lawsuit was a malicious prosecution, an attempt to stifle free speech and suppress the publication of publicly available information, information which the area’s newspapers, while benefiting from a continuous stream of advertising revenue from Northeast Health and other providers, have ignored for the past 12 years.

Monday, March 11, 2013


At the Times Union,
silence is deafening

By David Baker
Posted Monday March, 11, 2013

Once again the Albany Times Union is demonstrating its selective reporting, with another story about a medical-malpractice lawsuit over the death of a prisoner while it continues its 12-year silence on similar lawsuits filed against its advertisers.

This latest story is about Irene Bamenga, 29, a French citizen who had applied for a permanent visa but was detained by US immigration authorities as she tried, with her husband, to cross the US border into Canada to catch a flight to France.  She was here illegally because a temporary visa had expired several years earlier. She was moved to the Albany County Correctional Facility, where she became unwell and died.

Bamenga’s husband has filed a lawsuit against Correctional Medical Services, which was contracted by Albany County to provide medical services to the jail.  The lawsuit also names Albany and Allegany counties and Albany County sheriff Craig Apple.

The TU says that last fall it obtained a copy of a report of an investigation of the death by the state Commission on Correction, which concluded it was from natural causes. The report, the paper says, was heavily redacted.  The TU later acquired an unredacted copy.  It also obtained a copy of a 154-page report of a federal immigration department investigation, which said that six medications Bamenga was prescribed for a serious heart condition were not given to her over several days, and that a nurse wrote in a medical record that on some occasions this was because Bamenga was a “no-show.”

A link to the TU story appears below.  It is, of course, newsworthy.  But so was a story that appeared on this page back in 2011, about the death of Joseph Bartoski, a patient in Samaritan Hospital in Troy.

The story revealed the conclusions of an investigation by the state Health Department in documents obtained through a Freedom of Information request. The documents showed that both a doctor and a nurse had admitted that they failed to flush out a blood thinner from a medication dispenser before using it to administer another medication, causing Bartoski to twice receive huge doses of the thinner, the second one while medical staff were frantically trying to reverse the effects of the first dose.

The story noted that despite these admissions Samaritan Hospital and the doctor were continuing to fight a lawsuit brought by Bartoski’s widow.  A later story on this page reported that the lawsuit was settled just before trial for $350,000.

None of this has ever been mentioned by the Times Union.

Also not reported by the TU was a lawsuit that was eventually settled about the wife of a well-known retired politician who had a personal and family history of a heart condition who died less than an hour after a doctor in the emergency room at Albany Memorial Hospital had conducted a cursory examination and sent her home. The doctor was later stripped of his license, in part because of his negligence in this case.

The TU reported on the revocation;  it never said a word about the lawsuit against its advertiser.

But it did cover a case that also was reported here that had remarkably similar allegations, over the death of 39-year-old Laura Woolsey, who had just had heart surgery and was in the Schenectady County Jail.

Both were newsworthy. The one against a jail and its contractor – neither of them advertisers – got several stories and a scathing editorial.  The other one, against Memorial Hospital, was ignored.

The TU story is HERE

More stories about unreported lawsuits are linked at this blog's sister website:



I am now back from a visit to the U.K., during which my mother passed away at the age of 89.  An author of several books and a tireless campaigner for parental rights, she was a remarkable person whose determination and courage changed the lives of thousands of people in Britain. May she rest in peace.