Untreated Heroin Withdrawal Results in Death and Civil Rights Lawsuit
Cleveland, Ohio. March 7, 2014. A federal civil rights lawsuit was filed today against Richland County jail officials who failed to treat Corey Tolar’s heroin withdrawal which resulted in his death on September 29, 2012. The lawsuit alleges that Tolar suffered excruciating, painful and wrenching withdrawal symptoms in full view of jail medical staff. No meaningful treatment was provided before his death. By coincidence the case was filed on the same day that state officials are holding a public hearing to consider relaxing regulations regarding Ohio jail standards. Co-Counsel Al Gerhardstein stated, “These tragic deaths can be avoided. All Sheriffs need to stay vigilant and provide inmates the basic treatment needed to avoid death through withdrawal.” Drug addiction is a common problem in Richland County and the family hopes through this case to ensure that citizens get the help they need when they experience withdrawal. Attorneys Gerald Leeseberg and Craig Tuttle of Columbus are co-counsel on the case. A copy of the lawsuit is available here: Complaint. A copy of Mr. Gerhardstein’s objections to the relaxation of standards governing Ohio’s jails is available here: Public Comment.
The case is pending in federal court in Cleveland, Ohio and assigned to judge Donald C Nugent.
Once again, the medical malpractice lawyers and personal injury lawyers at Leeseberg & Valentine have earned the distinction of being named one of the “Best Law Firms” in the country by U.S. News & World Report’s 2014 Best Lawyers publication. Leeseberg & Valentine was named a Tier 1 law firm for personal injury litigation, which is the highest distinction given by the publication. This honor is especially rewarding in that the “Best Law Firms” are determined by a rigorous evaluation of a combination of client feedback and our firm’s reputation among other lawyers in the legal community.
The Columbus medical malpractice lawyers and personal injury lawyers at Leeseberg & Valentine are honored to be named a “Best Law Firm” and look forward to continuing to fight for justice on behalf of those injured from the negligence of others.
Once again, the medical malpractice lawyers and personal injury lawyers at Leeseberg & Valentine have earned the distinction of being named “Super Lawyers.” Congratulations to Gerald Leeseberg and Anne Valentine for being named Super Lawyers.
Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The selection process is multi-phased and includes independent research, peer nominations and peer evaluations, making it a truly special honor.
The Columbus medical malpractice lawyers and personal injury lawyers at Leeseberg & Valentine are honored to be named “Super Lawyers” and look forward to continuing to fight for justice on behalf of those injured from the negligence of others.
Source: The Pop Tort – December 3, 2013
Hey kids, it’s December and that means finals! (You remember our last exam, right?) So get out those #2 pencils again. Actually, what year is this? Get out those laptops – and begin:
Medical errors in the U.S. rank where as a cause of death?
Answer: “d”! According to the report, published in the Journal of Patient Safetyand reported by Pro Public, “between 210,000 and 440,000 patients each year who go to the hospital for care suffer some type of preventable harm that contributes to their death, the study says. That would make medical errors the third-leading cause of death in America, behind heart disease, which is the first, and cancer, which is second.”
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Recently, the Supreme Court of Ohio heard oral arguments in the case of Cromer v. Children’s Hospital Medical Center of Akron. The case addresses the issue of whether the precise harm to the patient in a medical malpractice case must be foreseen by the defendants, in order for negligence to be shown. One case cited by the parties arguing Cromer was Needham, another case involving foreseeability of harm. Having served as trial attorneys in Needham, it is important to note some facts from that case that may be relevant to the outcome in Cromer and its implications on medical malpractice cases.
Needham involved a woman who died from necrotizing pancreatitis following a procedure performed for improper indications. The plaintiffs alleged it was negligent to have performed the procedure, contending the procedure should not have been done. There was no evidence that the procedure was performed in a negligent manner; the complication that developed was a known risk and complication of even a properly performed procedure. Plaintiff’s expert argued it was below the standard of care, as defined by medical guidelines, to expose the patient to the risk of a known possible injury by performing a procedure that was inappropriate.
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In Estate of Johnson v. Smith, Supreme Court of Ohio recently addressed Ohio’s “apology statute” (R.C. 2317.43) which prohibits the use of a physician’s statement of sympathy to a victim as evidence of an admission of liability, and prohibits the statement’s use in medical malpractice cases. The protected statements are those expressing sympathy, empathy, or condolence to the patient. For example, a statement from a doctor to a patient that the doctor is “so sorry this happened to you,” is protected by the statute.
In Johnson, the Court determined that a doctor’s statement that he “took full responsibility” for the patient’s injury, was covered by the apology statute, and prohibited from being used as evidence. Such a decision means that the Supreme Court is getting ever closer to protecting a doctor’s statement that the injury was his or her “fault” or that he or she “messed up.” Unfortunately, the Johnson decision clouded the waters between sympathetic-type statements and admissions of fault.
There is nothing wrong with excluding expressions of sympathy, empathy, or condolence, since those can be misconstrued to be admissions of fault. That was the true intention of the apology statute from the outset in Ohio and other states. However, there is no way to misconstrue acknowledgement of “responsibility” as an expression of sympathy, empathy, or compassion. A doctor only has “responsibility” for an outcome if he caused the outcome. This is not the purpose of the apology statute, yet the Supreme Court has expanded the statute’s definition to include such statements.
The big question remains, will any statement by a doctor to a patient be protected? If a doctor says “I’m sorry, your injury is my fault” or “I caused your injury,” is that inadmissible as well? What if the statement was in writing or recorded somehow? Would this still be inadmissible to show the doctor’s expression of fault? Unfortunately, if the Court is protecting statements accepting “responsibility” for an outcome, can a statement acknowledging “fault” for an outcome be that far from protection?
While this article is written about the medical malpractice verdicts in California, the content is equally applicable to Ohio’s tort reform laws. The authors explain quite clearly why limitations on damages in medical malpractice cases are harmful to citizen rights.
For decades, advocates of tort reform have pushed to limit the amount that courts can award for noneconomic damages such as pain and suffering. The California Legislature first capped this type of damages in medical malpractice lawsuits in 1975, and roughly half the states have followed California’s lead.
This summer, however, nearly 40 years after California’s Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act first limited noneconomic damages in malpractice cases to $250,000, trial lawyers and consumer groups have unveiled a ballot initiative that would relax the cap considerably. If the measure qualifies for the ballot and is approved by voters next year, the allowable amount for noneconomic damage payouts for victims of medical malpractice would be quadrupled.
Relaxing the $250,000 cap, which has never been adjusted for inflation, is a wise move. As a reform idea, noneconomic damage caps have never made much sense.
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A jury in one of New York’s most conservative counties recently returned a $130 million verdict in a medical malpractice case, the second-largest in the state’s history. Lawyers for the losing hospital decried a “jury out of control” and called for more tort reform. Before the case went to trial, their offer of an $8 million settlement was turned down.
What the defense lawyers seemed not to realize is that tort reform hasn’t worked for 25 years. And large verdicts may be the most effective drivers in making health care safer.
The case, Reilly v. St. Charles Hospital, centered on the birth of Shannon Reilly in 2002. The jury determined that the Long Island hospital and the obstetric nurse had failed to properly monitor the pregnant mother and her fetus, missed important signs that the baby was in distress, and then failed to take corrective action. When interviewed, jury members said that they agreed with plaintiff’s attorney Thomas Moore that the child — who was born with severe brain injury and has a form of cerebral palsy — is a “prisoner in her own body” and that the medical errors were avoidable.
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