Medical Malpractice and Personal Injury Law Blog

Family of Joan Rivers Settles Malpractice Suit

Posted by Briggs Bedigian | May 16, 2016 | 0 Comments

The family of comedian Joan Rivers, who died days after undergoing a routine procedure at a New York City clinic, settled a medical malpractice lawsuit against the facility this month.

Ms. Rivers died Sept. 4, 2014, at age 81. The comedian's death came days after she stopped breathing after undergoing a routine endoscopy at Yorkville Endoscopy in Manhattan. Her daughter, Melissa Rivers filed the suit in 2015 in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, alleging that the doctors performed unauthorized medical procedures and they were caught taking a selfie with the star of the show, "Fashion Police" on E!, while she was under anesthesia.

The lawsuit alleged doctors at the clinic mishandled the comedian's procedure by performing a laryngoscopy on her vocal cords without consent, instead of an endoscopy. The suit claimed that when an anesthesiologist expressed concern over what the procedure would do to her ability to breathe, she was told that she was being "paranoid." A laryngoscopy is a procedure in which a doctor examines the back of the throat and vocal cords. An upper gastrointestinal endoscopy involves looking at the upper gastrointestinal tract with a light. Both are routine procedures. Rivers was rushed to Mount Sinai Hospital in New York after reportedly suffering cardiac arrest during the procedure.

The autopsy revealed that Ms. Rivers' official cause of death was due to brain damage from lack of oxygen. In 2014, The New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner stated:

The cause of Ms. Rivers' death is anoxic encephalopathy due to hypoxic arrest during laryngoscopy and upper gastrointestinal endoscopy with propofol sedation for evaluation of voice changes and gastroesophageal reflux disease. The manner of death is therapeutic complication. The classification of a death as a therapeutic complication means that the death resulted from a predictable complication of medical therapy.

The amount of the settlement was not disclosed. Both sides agreed to a settlement to avoid litigation.

A new report released this month by researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine reveals that medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States, responsible for killing more than 250,000 patients each year.

According to Consumer Reports, a patient should be concerned about a physician if the doctor has a pattern of medical malpractice payouts. Relatively few physicians have had multiple malpractices payouts. About 15 percent of the nearly 1.25 million physicians practicing since 1990 have had at least one medical malpractice payout, but less than 2 percent have had two or more payouts.

Medical malpractice occurs when a medical professional, such as a doctor, is negligent in the care of their patient. When a patient is injured due to medical malpractice they – or their families – can seek damages for the injuries. Medical errors can include: failure to diagnose, delayed diagnoses, surgical errors, negligent intubation, anesthesia errors, emergency room errors, wrongful pregnancy, negligent prenatal care, childbirth injuries, plastic surgery and cosmetic surgery malpractice among other things. Medical errors are serious and can lead to life-long complications, so it is important to have a competent and experienced attorney representing you or your loved one.

Every person who is injured by a wrongful act deserves compensation. If you suspect a loved one was harmed or died as a result of a medical error, call the offices of trial attorneys Gilman & Bedigian at 800-529-6162 or contact them online. The firm handles cases in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.

About the Author

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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