HOW RUSH REALLY FEELS ABOUT SANDRA FLUKE

Friday, January 05, 2007

Malpractice Lawsuit Close to Settlement

This news story is from the Fredericksburg (VA) Freelance Star and was written by Jim Hall:

Settlement talks are under way in wrongful death and malpractice cases involving the maker of a heart-surgery solution and Mary Washington Hospital.

"Mediation is ongoing," said Kathleen Allenbaugh, spokeswoman for the hospital. "We're continuing talks with the patients and families involved."

The participants have agreed not to talk about the mediation conference held last month or any settlements already reached.

"I've been required to sign a confidentiality agreement about mediation," said Charles A. Gavin, who represents the family of one of the deceased patients. "I can't really tell you about anything that it involves."

Stephanie E. Grana, attorney for eight of the patients or surviving family members, did not respond to efforts to reach her.

William H. Robinson Jr., attorney for the heart-solution manufacturer, also did not return a phone call.

The mediation efforts are aimed at ending the legal claims made by a group of patients who had heart surgery at Mary Washington between December 2004 and September 2005.

The patients or their surviving family members contend that they received a commercial solution called cardioplegia that was contaminated with bacteria. Six of the patients died following surgery. Three others required lengthy hospital stays but survived.

Mary Washington purchased the medicine from Central Admixture Pharmacy Services Inc. The hospital, Central Admixture and B. Braun, its parent company at the time, are named as defendants in the lawsuits.

The plaintiffs claim negligence and ask for $5 million each in damages. The defendants deny responsibility and blame each other.

The hospital contends that the medicine was contaminated by Central Admixture at its Maryland plant. Central Admixture says the contamination may have occurred at the hospital.

The plaintiffs filed their lawsuits in Spotsylvania Circuit Court beginning in March. The ninth and latest suit was filed Dec. 21 by the son of Jean E. Snyder, a 69-year-old resident of Fredericksburg.

Like the other patients, Snyder had a cardiac catheterization at Mary Washington, followed by coronary artery bypass graft surgery. Her surgery was on Dec. 30, 2004. She died at the hospital three weeks later.

Her family's suit alleges that bacteria-laden cardioplegia was used during her surgery and was responsible for her death.

The contaminated cardioplegia first came to light in September 2005 when the hospital voluntarily suspended its heart-surgery program. The hospital took the unusual step after a cluster of patients became sick or died following bypass surgery.

Cardioplegia is a clear liquid administered intravenously during heart-bypass surgery to stop and protect the heart.

Hospital officials reported to state and federal health officials that the hospital laboratory found bacteria in bags of cardioplegia. Tests by federal laboratories confirmed the finding.

The lawsuits are before Circuit Court Judge Ann Hunter Simpson. In September Simpson referred the cases to a judicial settlement conference.

The settlement conference is a three-year-old state program that offers litigants the services of a retired judge to help reach a compromise agreement.

Instead of participating in the state program, the two sides in the cardioplegia cases decided to use private mediation with retired judge Robert L. Harris.

The first of these mediation conferences was scheduled for Dec. 18 through 20. Simpson has ordered the parties to report back to her on the outcome of the mediation by Jan. 10.

To reach JIM HALL: 540/374-5433
Email: jhall@freelancestar.com

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