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PA Court Finds Defense Counsel’s Actions Improper In Medical Malpractice Case

Plaintiff Carole Wilson underwent heart surgery at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital. The surgery was performed by Dr. Francis Marchlinski and the procedure itself went fine; however, days later she developed a brain bleed and the doctor was accused of insufficient post-surgical monitoring. Wilson was prescribed Heparin following surgery which triggered the problem and she was injured permanently and left unable to perform basic tasks such as bathing and getting dressed without assistance.

medical malpractice case resulted in a jury finding on behalf of the defense. An appellate court later found that the defense counsel’s remarks and lines of questioning may have had an effect on the jury verdict and ordered a new trial.

One Judge Dissents

Judges William H. Platt and Anne E. Lazarus both agreed that a new trial was appropriate, but Mary Jane Bowes dissented. Judge Bowes agreed in part with her colleagues although she did not think the defense’s actions were enough to actually change the verdict rendered by the jury. The court had agreed on the boundaries (scope) of the trial testimony and Platt and Lazarus felt that these limitations were well exceeded.

Reasoning for Dissent

Judge Bowes felt the jury was capable of justly evaluating the evidence and rendering an unbiased verdict. At the beginning of the trial, the plaintiff agreed that the ablation procedure (surgery) was properly executed. The parties agreed that the scope of testimony would exclude mention of the actual procedure and rather focus on the post-surgical care. This was largely a ruling that sought to make the trial more efficient. Once the trial began, defense lawyers repeatedly made reference to the surgery. At one point the court suggested that the defense may have been knowingly attempting to manipulate or confuse the jurors.

Alleged Defense Tactics

Defense counsel was accused of conducting interrogation that was “unnecessarily repetitive & cumulative at times”. In the vast majority of these instances, opposing counsel objected and the court agreed. The trial court was described as having done a good job of maintaining the proper scope of evidence throughout the proceedings. The judges who support a new trial feel that the defense actions were clearly “prejudicial”.

Cardiac Ablation

cardiac ablation procedure is sometimes used to treat problems with heartbeat (arrhythmias). The process involves modifying certain tissue in the heart region that is causing the irregularity by transmitting unwanted electrical impulses. The heart area is often accessed using flexible tubing that enters in the groin region; this option is less invasive. The process may also be done as an open-heart surgery, which usually will require additional recovery time.

Heparin Treatment

The primary use for heparin is the prevention and treatment of blood clots. The medication is effective in those suffering from clots occurring in the lungs, legs, and other regions of the body. As was the situation in this case, blood clotting may be particularly a problem for patients who recently underwent surgery. Others who may be at high risk include those undergoing dialysis, receiving transfusions of blood, providing blood samples, or those unable to move their body for long periods. Heparin is classified as an anticoagulant, which essentially thins the blood to maintain better flow without clotting.

About the Author

Briggs Bedigian
Briggs Bedigian

H. Briggs Bedigian (“Briggs”) is a founding partner of Gilman & Bedigian, LLC.  Prior to forming Gilman & Bedigian, LLC, Briggs was a partner at Wais, Vogelstein and Bedigian, LLC, where he was the head of the firm’s litigation practice.  Briggs’ legal practice is focused on representing clients involved in medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. 


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