Lisa Zenzen Baker, 1961-2003


Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Another Abraham lawsuit

A mother’s avoidable death
and an unreported lawsui

By David Baker
Posted April 2, 2014
768 words

A lawsuit over the death of a woman who died following childbirth that named former gynecologist and now state prisoner Akiva Abraham was settled for $1.6 million on the first day of trial in April 2004.

This lawsuit, like virtually every claim against Capital District medical providers filed over the past 14 years, was never mentioned by the area’s newspapers, newspapers that have received and continue to receive a steady stream of advertising revenue from the hospitals.

The case involved a family from Rensselaer County.  In addition to Abraham, the suit named as defendants Samaritan Hospital and Seton Health/St. Mary’s Hospital, both in Troy.

At the time of the settlement both Samaritan Hospital and Abraham asked the court to seal documents setting out the amount and details of the payout.  Despite that, full details of the settlement terms are on file in the office of the county clerk.  However, to reduce the likelihood of the names of several people – one of them still a minor – who were allocated parts of the settlement becoming available on the Internet, this page is withholding those details and the name of the family

Court papers say that although St. Mary’s Hospital was made a defendant, it was only because Abraham was employed there at the time the patient died in September 1999. (Abraham was later fired by St. Mary’s for making a false entry in a medical record;  a $1.5 million lawsuit he brought against the hospital claiming breach of contract was dismissed.  In 2006 his medical license was revoked and in 2012 he started a 4- to 12-year sentence in state prison for insurance fraud stemming from an arson.)

 It was Abraham who, according to legal papers, failed to recognize that the patient, who had been admitted to Samaritan Hospital for a Cesarean section, was at high risk of suffering a pulmonary embolism – a blood clot that reaches the lungs.

“Defendant, Akiva Abraham, was negligent and deviated from accepted standards of medical care,” the family’s attorney wrote in a document called a bill of particulars.  He was negligent in  “…failing to properly assess (the patient’s) risk of pulmonary embolism; failing after August 1999 and before the September 26 1999 surgery to properly address (the patient’s) continuing complaints of leg and groin pain; … failing to perform additional tests, in particular a Doppler study to determine whether or not (patient) was suffering from venous thrombosis; failing to properly address (the patient’s) complaints of chest pain and shortness of breath…(and) failing to administer heparin (a blood thinner) in a timely fashion.”

The document also says nurses at Samaritan Hospital were negligent by “…failing to record all of (patient’s) complaints of chest pain and shortness of breath; failing to immediately communicate to Akiva Abraham, M.D. (patient’s) complaints of chest pains and shortness of breath on September 27 and September 28, 1999; failing to communicate to any physician (patient’s) complaints of chest pain and shortness of breath … in a sufficiently prompt and urgent manner.”

The litigation lasted almost four years, settling on the first day of trial on April 19, 2004.  Of the $1.6 million, $567,725 went to the attorneys representing the husband, Conway & Kirby of Latham.  Of this amount, $59,292 was for expenses; the rest – $508,433 – was the firm’s percentage of the net recovery, which by agreement of the husband and the approval of the court came to 33.3 percent.  This is higher than would have been allocated under a sliding scale that starts at 30 percent of the first $250,000 recovered and drops in five steps to 10 percent of any amount over $1,250,000.

 The balance – $1,355,514 – was paid out in varying amounts to the husband and the couple’s four children, with some of the money allocated to the then-minor children going to purchase annuities for their benefit.

Despite the nature of the claim – the avoidable death of a young woman – and the size of the settlement, this case, like dozens of others against Capital Region providers, was never mentioned by the media.

Abraham’s medical license was revoked in 2006.  Prior to that, in 2004, also at Samaritan Hospital and after he had been fired by St. Mary’s Hospital, Abraham removed a large amount of tissue from a woman’s breast during what was supposed to be a simple biopsy.  The unauthorized and unnecessary procedure, performed without the patient’s knowledge’s or permission, led to six years of litigation that was also never mentioned by the media.

The attorneys in that case also were Conway & Kirby.  The case settled on the first day of trial in August 2012 for an undisclosed sum.