Lisa Zenzen Baker, 1961-2003


Monday, January 13, 2014

Hospital takes a verdict

A jury finds for a hospital
in morphine-overdose claim

By David Baker
Posted Monday Jan. 13, 2014
344 words

A lawsuit in which it is alleged that a patient at St. Peter’s Hospital was injured by excessive amount of morphine has ended after a jury found for the hospital.

The claim, details of which were first published in here in November 2007, alleged that in April 2005 nursing staff improperly programmed a patient controlled medication dispenser, causing Angela Ryan to receive overdoses of the drug.  A subsequent post described how a judge had ordered the hospital to produce long overdue documents and make witnesses available for depositions.

The case went to trial in December.

A jury verdict in a medical malpractice case is extremely rare. When it does happen, the defendants win in about 80 percent of cases, a statistic cited by insurance companies to promote their claim that many such lawsuits are frivolous.  Ignored in these claims is the fact that most malpractice cases never go to a jury, and that many of them are settled, often after a long legal battle and just before a scheduled trial.

It could not immediate be determined if Ryan will appeal the virdict, or if she is pursuing a claim against the manufacturer of the medication dispenser.  Such a claim would likely be filed in a federal court rather than a state court, and would be hampered by the fact that the dispenser was destroyed by the hospital soon after Ryan’s alleged injury.

The Ryan case, like dozens of other claims filed over the past 15 years against Capital District medical providers, has never been mentioned by the area’s newspapers. This case would seem to present them with a dilemma. The fact that it went to a verdict would make it unusual and therefore newsworthy. But because the hospital prevailed, the papers could be accused of only publishing details of a lawsuit in which a big advertiser won, while ignoring the many other cases against their advertisers, some of them over a death, that have ended with a settlement.

Ryan’s attorney was Thomas Conway of Conway and Kirby in Latham. St. Peter’s Hospital was represented by D’Agostino, Krackeler & Maguire in Menands.

Related story:

Holy war: St. Peter’s Hospital’s strategy of obstruction and delay.

The Ryan lawsuit against St. Peter’s Hospital was filed in 2007.  In a merger in 2012, the hospital joined Northeast Health Inc. – which operates Samaritan Hospital in Troy and Memorial Hospital in Albany , and Seton Health Systems – operator of St. Mary’s Hospital in Troy, under a single governing body with the name St. Peter’s Health Partners.