Lisa Zenzen Baker, 1961-2003


Monday, October 28, 2013


Scrutiny lacking on all sides

Posted Monday Oct. 28, 2013
538 words

The facts revealed in former gynecologist Akiva Abraham’s lawsuit against Seton Health undercut even further the claim made by Samaritan Hospital during the Susan Stalker lawsuit that it didn't have any reason to believe Abraham was unfit to practice.

In its defense of Stalker’s claim that Samaritan was negligent when it granted and repeatedly renewed Abraham’s privileges, the hospital said it had carried out all the checks required by state regulations and its own bylaws.

Abraham’s privileges were granted and repeatedly renewed despite the fact that he had been fired by Seton Health – and that in 2001 Seton served a subpoena on Samaritan, demanding that it produce a copy of its credentialing file on Abraham.

The subpoena produced a response from Robert Swidler, Samaritan’s general counsel, objecting to the demand.

“The information collected and maintained by the hospital in the credentialing process – the ‘credentials file’ – is highly confidential,” Swidler wrote in an affidavit asking the court to quash Seton’s subpoena.  He went on to cite a state law that shields information gathered in the credentialing process from disclosure – the same defense Samaritan would later use when Stalker demanded the Abraham file during her lawsuit.

So Samaritan’s lawyer was aware in 2001 that Abraham – who was practicing at Samaritan – was involved in a legal action against another hospital, and that his competency appeared to be an issue. 

Samaritan Hospital also claimed during the Stalker lawsuit that it did not know and could not have known that Abraham was under investigation by the state, even though the state had served it with a subpoena for records of two of Abraham’s patients.

And if that wasn't enough, the existence of the probe was publicly disclosed in a document in Abraham’s lawsuit against Seton Health.  In an affidavit filed in 2003, an attorney for Seton said: “Upon information and belief, the Plaintiff is currently being investigated by (the office of Professional Medical Conduct) for this falsification of the medical record.”

Shouldn't an ongoing monitoring of documents in that case have been a part of a rigorous scrutiny of Abraham’s history and the information he provided on each of his applications for privileges?

Apparently not.  Instead, Samaritan either didn't look for or ignored this and many other indications that Abraham was unfit, and allowed him to practice for three more years. He eventually was stopped, but only after, without a patient’s knowledge or consent, he had performed a medically unnecessary procedure he was not authorized by the hospital to perform that left the patient permanently disfigured.

And even then, Samaritan fought the ensuing lawsuit for six years before settling on the first day of trial, maintaining right to the end that it had carried out all the required investigations of Abraham and was not responsible for the damage he had done.

Abraham’s lawsuit, like Stalker’s, was never mentioned by the area’s newspapers, which for the past 14 years have ignored dozens of claims against hospitals that during that time have spent an enormous amount of money advertising in the media.

If the papers had covered Abraham’s claim against Seton, Stalker would probably not have been injured.  Instead, the newspapers have participated in an ongoing conspiracy of silence that has allowed a devastating toll of emotional and financial damage – and likely has cost several patients their lives.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Cases over

Albany Medical Center Hospital,
self insured, quickly settles claims

By David Baker
Posted Tuesday Oct. 8, 2013
1,263 words

Most lawsuits against medical providers will go on for several years as the defense lawyers use every available tactic to obstruct and delay cases before many of them end just before trial with a settlement.

But one group of lawsuits in the Capital Region have been settled in little more than a year.  These claims all name Albany Medical Center Hospital as one, sometimes the only defendant.  Unlike the area’s other hospitals, Albany Med is self insured.

Here is the first in a series of articles on cases in which Albany Medical Center is a defendant, none of which have been reported by the area’s newspapers.

A child's injuries bring settlement

Albany Medical Center Hospital, Albany Medical College, a pediatric practice operated by the hospital and four physicians are named as defendants in a now-settled lawsuit in which it is alleged that an infant received catastrophic, permanent injuries.

The claim was brought by Mary Faulkner of Albany County.  The suit names AMC General Pediatric Group and physicians Rebecca Butterfield, Carrin Schottler-Thal, Salimah Dhanani and Natalia Lukankina.

According to legal papers, the child was receiving a continuing course of treatment during which he “…was caused to sustain severe, catastrophic and irreparable physical and mental injuries and damages.”  The defendants, it alleges, “…carelessly and negligently rendered medical care and treatment to the infant … not in accordance with good and accepted medical practice."

The complaint does not describe the nature of the injuries or the age of the child at the time.  However, settlements of claims for permanent injuries to children often run to millions of dollars, with payouts spread out over many years for the life long care that is needed.

The claim, before Supreme Court Justice Gerald W. Connolly, ended with a settlement on May 3, 2013, according to an entry on the court system’s web page.

The lawsuit was filed by the Albany law firm of Powers & Santola. Representing the hospital was Maynard O’Connor, Smith & Catalinotto of Albany.

Heart damage alleged

A lawsuit in which it is alleged a patient suffered damage to his heart during surgery to remove a filter that traps blood clots has been settled a year after it was filed.

David W. Harblin II filed the suit in January 2011.  Named as defendants were radiologists Gary Siskin and Jennifer Johnson and Albany Medical Center Hospital.

According to legal papers, in November 2010, the defendants “…were negligent and/or committed medical malpractice in accessing the plaintiff, David Harblin II’s right carotid artery during the inferior cava filter retrieval, causing injuries to said plaintiff’s heart and other severe personal injuries.”

The claim was settled in January 2012, just over a year after it was filed.

The lawsuit was filed by the Albany law firm of Linnan and Fallon.  The defendants were represented by Maynard, O’Connor, Smith & Catalinotto of Albany and Carter, Conboy, Case Blackmore, Maloney & Laird.

Details concealed in death case

A lawsuit brought by the estate of a woman who died at the age of 62 in Albany Medical Center Hospital was filed with only a summons with notice instead of the usual complaint.

Filing only a notice allows a plaintiff’s attorney to provide little or no details of a claim.  The lawyer in this case, as in several other claims against area hospitals filed with only a notice, was E. Stewart Jones of Troy.

Several such claims filed by Jones with little or no details of the alleged negligence were dated soon after this page began publishing stories about malpractice lawsuits in 2008.

The wrongful death lawsuit names Albany Medical Center Hospital and Albany Medical College.  According to the one-paragraph notice, M. Elaine Edelson died on August 26, 2009 “… by reason of the medical negligence of the defendants while the decedent was a patient of and under the care of the defendants.”

The case is listed on the court system’s web page as being “settled” on March 26, 2013.  No motions – which would often provide details of a claim, were filed.

An obituary notice says Elaine Eldeson held bachelors and masters degrees and was retired after 30 years as a social studies teacher at Gowana Junior High School in the Shenendehowa School District.

Positive test result not shared

A woman who claimed the results of a test that showed she has a form of lung cancer were not sent to her doctor has accepted a settlement of a lawsuit against Albany Medical Center Hospital and two of its physicians.

According to legal papers, Marion F. Mullaney had a fine needle aspiration of the left lung.  This test, the suit says, was positive for non-small cell carcinoma.  But the two Albany Medical Center physicians who conducted the test, Timothy Jennings and Meredith Englander, allegedly failed to notify Mullaney or her doctor, Michael Shea, of the positive result.

Shea is also named as a defendant, who the suit says, failed to inquire about the cytopathology report.

As a result of the defendants’ alleged failures, Mullaney “…continues to suffer pain and suffering, advancement of  her non-small cell carcinoma, additional medical procedures and/or treatments that would otherwise [have] been unnecessary, shortened life expectancy mental anguish, depression, permanent damages, loss of enjoyment of life, significant economic harm, including but not limited to past and future medical expenses, and other injuries.”

The lawsuit was filed in March 2008.  It ended with a settlement in June 2009, according to an entry on the court system’s web page.

Mullaney’s attorneys were Linnan & Fallon.  The defendants were represented by Maynard, O’Connor, Smith & Catalinotto; O’Connor, O’Conner & Bresee; Carter, Conboy, Case Blackmore, Maloney & Laird;  and D’Agostino, Krackeler & Baynes.

Birth control shots allegedly caused bone damage

A lawsuit in which Albany Medical Center Hospital was alleged to have caused a patient to develop osteoporosis – a loss of bone density – by allowing her to take the contraceptive Depo Provera for several years has been settled.

According to the suit, Melissa Verga was prescribed the hormone treatment by the hospital in 2001 and remained on it until 2007, when she was diagnosed with osteoporosis.  The suit also alleges Verga was not properly monitored for side effects of the drug.

A web site run by the Food and Drug administration says that in 2004 a so-call black-box warning was issued saying that Depo Provera should not be used for more than two years unless no other form of contraception was considered adequate, and that patients should be checked for bone thinning.

The suit ended in August 2012 with a settlement, according to the court system’s web page.

Verga’s lawyers were Anderson, Moschetti & Taffany of Latham.  The hospital was represented by Maynard, O’Connor, Smith & Catalinotto of Albany.

Hospital admits liability for fall

A case in which Albany Medical Center Hospital admitted that it failed to supervise an unconscious patient who suffered a fractured hip when he fell from a gurney after surgery was apparently settled.

In a document called a certificate of merit, an attorney for patient Sidney Yaffe says that as the hospital is self insured, he will work with a claims adjuster to settle the claim “…as the hospital has admitted to its wrongdoing and we are working to settle the case without further litigation.”

A certificate of merit is required when a medical malpractice case is filed in New York.  In it, the plaintiff’s attorney states that he has consulted with at least one expert who has concluded that there is a basis for a claim.

Yaffe’s attorney was Paul Argentieri of Hornell, NY.  The hospital was represented by Maynard, O’Connor, Smith & Catalinotto.

RELATED STORY:  The Albany Medical Center doctor who stated in a sworn paid opinion in a wrongful-death case that nurses who ignored a physician’s order that they follow a written protocol for treating hypoglycemia did not fail to meet the standard of care.


Protecting advertisers

Once again today the Albany Times Union has a story about a medical-malpractice lawsuit brought on behalf of a prisoner, while it continues to suppress information about similar claims against its advertisers.
Here’s an earlier post on this page about this selective reporting