Articles Posted in Medical Malpractice

A former nursing home executive was indicted this week in connection with alleged healthcare fraud totaling more than $407 million.  A federal grand jury in the Western District of Wisconsin returned an indictment yesterday charging Kevin Breslin, 56, of Hoboken, New Jersey, with a scheme to defraud Medicare and Medicaid in connection with the operation of nursing homes and assisted living centers in Wisconsin.  Mr. Breslin was a former top executive at Atrium Health and Senior Living.

The alleged scheme involved inflating the cost of services and supplies and retaining overpayments from taxpayer dollars.  From January 2015 through September 2018, Atrium billed Medicare for over $189,000,000 and received over $49,000,000, and they billed Medicaid for over $218,000,000 and received more than $93,000,000.  However, the indictment alleges that the majority of those funds never went to providing care for residents of Atrium Facilities.  The government believes that Atrium took these large sums of money, but failed to follow quality of care standards for nursing homes, provided inadequate staffing and supplies, and diverted funds from their Wisconsin nursing home facilities to guaranteed payments to investors to finance the construction of new nursing homes in New Jersey.   Breslin faces penalties of up to 20 years in prison in connection with these charges.

Continue reading ›


NH-wheelchairA recent study, conducted jointly by Harvard and Vanderbilt medical schools, found understaffing in 75 percent of nursing facilities across the United States.  The study published in the Journal of Health Affairs, obtained data from the Payroll Based Journal (PBJ) to analyze the staffing levels of more than 15,000 nursing homes. The researchers examined the staffing levels of registered nurses (RN), licensed practical nurses (LPN), and nurse aides, relative to the number of nursing home residents they were caring for.  One of the more alarming findings from the study was that 75 percent of nursing homes were rarely in compliance with what the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services expected their staffing level to be, based on the needs of their residents. Additionally, the researchers found that 70 percent of facilities self-reported false numbers to reflect a higher total of nursing home staff.

In the United States, an estimated 1.5 million individuals receive care from nursing homes each day. Many of these individuals are living with serious physical and cognitive impairments, leaving them frail and vulnerable in a facility without sufficient staffing to meet their needs.  When nursing homes are understaffed, nurses scramble to deliver meals, assist bedbound residents to the bathroom and answer calls for pain medication. Essential medical tasks such as repositioning a patient to prevent bedsores, or responding to a bed alarm, can go overlooked when a nursing home doesn’t have sufficient staffing, many times leading to tragic consequences.

Suthers & Harper has been fighting for victims of abuse and neglect in nursing homes for nearly three decades. The attorneys at Suthers & Harper have seen time and time again the tragic results that can come about as a direct result of nursing homes not having enough to staff to properly care for its residents.  If you suspect or know of neglect or abuse of a loved one inside a nursing home, contact the experienced nursing home attorneys at Suthers & Harper. Our attorneys have the knowledge and resources required to hold nursing homes accountable. Contact us now online or toll-free at 1-800-320-2384 for a free consultation.

The United States Government will pay $42 million to the parents of a young child who suffered a permanent brain injury, resulting from improper use of forceps during his delivery.  After a six day trial in Federal Court in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the verdict for $42 million was rendered by U.S. District Court Judge Sylvia Rambo.  The parents sued the Federal Government in a malpractice claim involving an Ob/Gyn physician, who was employed at a federal facility.  The lawsuit claimed that the doctor improperly used forceps on the baby’s head during the delivery, which caused skull fractures and bleeding on the brain that resulted in permanent brain damage.  Evidence presented during trial showed that the now five year old boy cannot speak, read or write and eventually will require a motorized wheelchair to get around.

This was what is known as a Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) case.  The FTCA is a federal statute that allows private parties to sue the United States in Federal Court for torts committed by persons acting on behalf of the Government.  For example, if a doctor or nurse employed by a Veterans Administration hospital or a hospital on a military base commits malpractice, the patient would need to bring a medical malpractice claim under the FTCA.  Other examples of potential negligence claims against the Government include someone injured in an auto accident involving a Government owned vehicle, and someone injured due to a fall caused by negligent maintenance in a post office or other Government-owned facility.

Suing the Government under the FTCA is different than suing a private company or individual.  There are a number of hoops that you have to jump through before you can even file the lawsuit. There are also certain limitations in lawsuits against the Government that you don’t have in lawsuits against private parties.  While you are entitled to a trial under the FTCA, it is a “bench trial,” meaning the judge renders the decision and not a jury.  Fortunately for the victims in the above-referenced malpractice case, the judge recognized the serious and permanent nature of the child’s injuries and the extraordinary expenses that would be required to provide for the child’s future medical and life care needs.

All of us have been taught the importance of being personally responsible and accountable for our actions. This week, the U.S. House of Representatives will vote on Bills that will make it more difficult, if not impossible, for citizens harmed by the wrongdoing of others to seek justice in our nation’s courts. Congress is proposing legislation that will make lawsuits brought by injured patients, nursing home residents, and their families nearly impossible to pursue. This so-called “Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017” (Bill H.R. 1215) will rig the system against individuals and tip the scales in favor of doctors, hospitals, nursing homes and their insurance companies. These bills seek to prevent medical care providers who commit negligence from being held accountable for the injuries and damages they cause. Instead of protecting our most vulnerable citizens, such as nursing home residents, Congress is attempting to enact laws that will benefit only the corporations that run nursing homes and the companies that insure them.

Unfortunately, certain politicians, who are supported in large part by corporations and insurance companies, are proposing these laws that are designed to destroy your right to hold wrongdoers accountable for their negligent acts and omissions.  If passed, the Bills proposed will radically change existing laws and radically limit citizens’ access to courts.  The proposed Bills include the following:

  1. A law designed to protect doctors, hospitals, nursing homes, and medical device manufacturers by limiting compensation for injuries caused by their negligence to $250,000, regardless of how egregious their conduct was or how much the injury has devastated a victim’s life.

Medical errors are now the third-leading cause of death in the United States, claiming more than a quarter of a million lives every year, more than lung disease, breast cancer, AIDS, plane crashes, drug overdoses, stroke or Alzheimer’s, according to a recent study published by the British Medical Journal. Diagnostic mistakes, lack of communication between treating physicians, inadequate discharge instructions, and incorrect medications are among the leading issues listed as contributing to these fatal medical errors. Only heart disease and cancer take more lives in the United States.Medical Errors

The study, led by Johns Hopkins surgeon Dr. Martin Makary, believe there needs to be changes in the way deaths are recorded to better tabulate fatal lapses in care to address this very serious problem. “We’re talking about patients dying from the care that they receive rather than the disease or injury for which they seek care. We’re talking about things that happen that shouldn’t happen,” said Dr. Makary. In an open letter, the researchers urge the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) to immediately add medical errors to its annual list reporting the top causes of death.

The study discusses the difficulty in actually tracking the number of medical deaths that come about as a result of physician or hospital error.  This is due to the fact that there are no federal or state requirements for reporting when a patient dies as a result of a medical error. Moreover, the CDC currently has no good way of tracking deaths that result from medical mistakes.  The agency’s death statistics are pulled from the International Classification of Diseases codes that appear on death certificates. These codes were instituted in 1949 and do not include any that indicate a death was the result of a mistake in the hospital. As a result, the researchers believe the study’ actually understates the true incidence of death due to medical error because it relies on errors extractable in documented health records and includes only death that occurred inside of a hospital.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that it will make data public on eight hospital-acquired conditions in the near future. This data can be found on the CMS website. The data will include mistakes that occur in hospitals, such as foreign objects being left in patients following surgery and the wrong type of blood being given to patients. These and other so-called “hospital-acquired conditions” can be life-threatening.

This data was mysteriously removed from the CMS website recently, which led to criticism by several consumer organizations that publish safety ratings for hospitals. There has been mounting pressure on government officials and hospitals to be more transparent about safety, so that patients considering certain types of surgeries can make more informed choices about the hospital where the surgery will be performed. For example, a patient who chooses to have an elective surgery, such as a hip replacement or knee replacement, can investigate the infection rates at the hospitals they are considering. This is important information because infections can lead to more serious conditions, such as sepsis or septic shock, which can be deadly.

Not surprisingly, many hospital officials around the country opposed this release of information reflecting hospital mistakes. The hospitals contend that some incidents, such as foreign objects being left in patients after surgery, do not happen enough for the information to be reliable. However, a USA Today report in 2013 concluded that foreign objects were retained after surgery as often as 6,000 times a year, which was far greater than the government had estimated. The retention of foreign objects after surgery can lead to infections and other complications that can, in turn, lead to additional surgeries.

Medication errors remain one of the leading causes of injuries and deaths in hospitals. These incidents occur in several, different scenarios.

Medication dosage errors are the most common. It can be particularly dangerous when a decimal point describing the dose is placed in the wrong location. For example, suppose a doctor writes a prescription for Colchicine. Instead of ordering the intended dose of “1.0 mg,” he accidently writes or orders “10.0 mg,” resulting in the patient getting ten times the dose prescribed. This decimal error can have catastrophic consequences for the patient. The higher dose could lead to Colchicine poisoning, which is similar to arsenic poisoning. The patient’s internal organs could shut down and the patient would likely die within twenty-four to seventy-two hours.

Mistaken medication types are another common form of medication error. The names of some drugs are very similar to others, and a pharmacist or hospital nurse can mistake one drug for another, leading to the patient receiving the wrong medication.

Gavel.jpgLast month, the Georgia Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, reversed a decision by the Georgia Court of Appeals in favor of Thelma and Sheldon Johnson, the parents of a teenage boy who died two weeks after he was treated by a physician in an Albany, GA emergency room. The reversal by the court now allows the case to proceed to a jury trial.

At issue in the case was whether the emergency room doctor, Dr. Price Paul Omondi, acted with “gross negligence,” and if the case should be tried by a jury. By statute in Georgia an ER doctor can only be held liable when it is proven by clear and convincing evidence that his or her actions showed “gross negligence.” Thus, there is a higher evidentiary burden to bringing a successful medical malpractice claim again a doctor in an emergency room setting.

The facts of this case involve a 15 year old patient who came to the emergency room complaining of chest pain. Eight days prior to his visit to the ER, the boy had undergone an arthroscopic knee surgery to repair an injury sustained playing high school football. Upon admission to the ER, the doctor noted the prior surgery, ordered that he be administered pain medication, an electrocardiogram (“EKG”), and a chest X-ray; he interpreted the results of the EKG and X-ray himself. The ER doctor diagnosed the teen with pleurisy and discharged him from the hospital with a prescription for an anti-inflammatory pain reliever, and instructions to return to the emergency department if his symptoms continued. Tragically, when the teen returned to the hospital a week later complaining of chest pain and difficulty breathing he died from a bilateral pulmonary embolism.

A recent study published in Journal of Patient Safety suggests that current estimates of the number of fatal mistakes made by physicians in the United States are far too low. The study found that twice as many patients, between 210,000 and 440,000 patients per year, suffer from preventable medical harm that contributes to their deaths. Previous studies done in this area had suggested there were far less fatal injuries as a result of medical errors. A study done in 1999 by the Institute of Medicine suggested that 98,000 people a year died from mistakes made in hospitals. Another study, performed in 2010 by the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services suggested that the number was around 180,000 deaths per year.

The American Hospital Association has disputed these findings, and has indicated that the AHA has more confidence in the Institute of Medicine’s 98,000 number found in the 1999 study. However, if the new estimates are accurate, medical malpractice would be considered the third leading cause of death in America, with only heart disease and cancer killing more Americans. Irrespective of which study is more accurate, there are far too many deaths in the U.S. caused by the negligence of medical providers.

Medical malpractice cases take many forms, but the common thread is that people trusted to care for a patient are responsible for serious harm that could have been avoided. When a medical provider is determined to be legally responsible for your injuries during medical care or treatment, they may be liable for the harms they caused. The attorneys at Suthers & Harper have been very successful at holding doctors, nurses, hospitals, nursing homes, pharmacists, and other health care providers accountable for medical mistakes or negligent care throughout Georgia and South Carolina. If you feel that you or a loved one has been harmed as a result of medical malpractice, call Suthers & Harper at 1-800-320-2384 or go to for more information.

The birth of a child is normally a joyous occasion for families. However, lives can be turned upside down when a newborn is catastrophically injured or dies during childbirth. There are many things that can go wrong during the labor and delivery process, so doctors and nurses alike must have a heightened awareness of any changes that could indicate fetal distress. The failure to react quickly to signs of fetal distress can lead to catastrophic injuries or the death of a newborn child.

Recently, an Atlanta area hospital was sued in three, separate cases involving the alleged wrongful death of babies, all of which occurred during a two month period. The lawsuits allege that doctors and nurses at South Fulton Medical Center were negligent in not recognizing signs of early labor in one of the cases, delaying a C-section delivery in another case, and neglecting to recognize the signs of fetal distress in the third case. None of the three babies survived.

In the first case involving the alleged failure to recognize the signs of early labor, a pregnant mother who was suffering from fever, back and stomach pain, and a decrease in fetal movement by the baby went to the hospital to be evaluated. She was told that she was suffering from the flu, was given Tylenol, and told that she could leave. No testing was done to determine whether she was in labor. Her pain worsened, so she returned to the hospital the same day and delivered a baby that weighed less than two pounds. The baby died shortly after being delivered.

Contact Information