Lisa Zenzen Baker, 1961-2003


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Felons first

To get your med/mal story
published, file it from jail

By David Baker
Posted Tuesday Oct. 15, 2014

Once again, the Hearst-owned Albany Times Union shows that it values convicted felons over everyone else.
Once again, the paper runs a story about a lawsuit filed by a prisoner, while dozens of similar claims filed over the past 15 years by non-prisoners are ignored.
This time it’s Kevin T. Kavanaugh, who is serving a five-year term in state prison for a drug conviction.
According to a story in the TU on Tuesday, Kavanaugh says his lower leg had to be amputated following injuries allegeldly inflicted by police officers during a July 2013 arrest. Officers allegedly twisted his leg, cutting off the blood circulation.
Named as defendants are several police departments and Correctional Medical Care, Inc., a company that provides medical services to several New York jails.
According to the suit, CMC staff ignored Kavanaugh’s repeated complaints that his leg was swollen and that he was unable to walk. The delay in getting treatment, the suit says, caused his condition to worsen, requiring the amputation.
The story also repeats details of another lawsuit against CMC that were published by the TU earlier this year. In that case, inmate Shamir Leflore, who is serving 13 years on a weapons charge, claims that a delay of several weeks in getting him treatment for a knee injury meant that a damaged tendon could not be repaired and had to be replaced with one from a cadaver, leaving him with permanent damage.
If history is a guide, the paper will now run an editorial lambasting the company, and the state for allowing it to provide substandard care.
But Helen Turcotte received no such support when, she, like Kavanaugh, lost part of her leg.
According to a lawsuit, Turcotte underwent surgery in 2006 to replace a knee. But during the procedure, an artery was allegedly damaged, requiring amputation of the lower leg.
The suit named several doctors, Albany Memorial Hospital and Northeast Health, Inc., (now, following a merger, a part of St. Peter’s Health Partners).
But not a word about it appeared in the TU.
It was the same for Joan Clark, who died an hour after a doctor in Albany Memorial Hospital’s emergency room sent her home after a brief examination that ignored her medical and family history and complaints of back pain. That doctor later lost his licence, in part because of his negligent care of Clark.
Again, not a word in the TU. But a claim filed by the family of Laura Woolsey, who died while an inmate at the Schenectady Jail after also complaining of chest pains, got both a story and - yes - an editorial.
Then there was Irene Bamenga, 29, a French citizen with a serious heart condition who had applied for a permanent visa but was detained by U.S. immigration authorities as she tried, with her husband, to cross the U.S. border into Canada to catch a flight to France.  She was here illegally because a temporary visa had expired several years earlier. Although not facing any charges, she was moved to the Albany County Correctional Facility, where her repeated complaints were ignored before she collapsed and died.
Bamenga’s husband filed a lawsuit against Correctional Medical Services, which was contracted by Albany County to provide medical services to the jail.  The lawsuit also named Albany and Allegany counties and Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple.
Once again, the TU ran a story which included information from both a heavily redacted report by Correctional Medical Services - which concluded Bamenga died from natural causes - and the results of an investigation by the immigration service, which found that her death was preventable.
The TU story - which also was followed by a scathing editorial - says the state censored information about medical errors that led to Bamenga’s death.
This from a paper that for years has suppressed information about dozens of lawsuits alleging medical negligence filed against its advertisers.
Then there was the special attention the TU gave to Darius Ashley.
In February 2011, details of a lawsuit in which the 25-year-old Ashley claimed he had been beaten were published in the TU.
Ashley was then in the Albany County jail for raping a 14-year-old girl and the attempted rape of another girl.  He also was a suspect in the murder of middle school student Gretham Perham, whose body was tossed down an embankment in Albany's South End in 2005.
The TU’s story ran just one day after the handwritten complaint was filed. Evidently the paper’s editors couldn’t wait to rush it into print.
For years, the Times Union management has demonstrated its true “news judgment” by ignoring dozen of lawsuits alleging malpractice and wrongful death filed against the area’s medical providers – providers who have spent and continue to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in advertising revenue with the paper.
But with the Ashley story, it was displaying a new bias.
One that gives a convicted child rapist a special priority.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Cases closed

Albany Medical Center Hospital,
self insured, quickly settles claims

By David Baker
First 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.


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