Medical Malpractice and Personal Injury Law Blog

Parents Awarded $6.5 Million in Case Against Pennsylvania Medical Center for Death of 11-Month Old Son

Posted by Briggs Bedigian | Apr 20, 2018 | 0 Comments

Plaintiffs who brought a medical malpractice action in Luzerne County Court against Geisinger Health System have reached a settlement agreement of $6.5 million. Rebecca Harowicz and Kevin Hayes, from Wilkes-Barre, lost their 11-month son Gunner after he suffered septic shock as a result of an intestinal condition. The boy died at Geisinger's Danville Medical Center, the third medical facility he visited over a span of two days. He was unable to hold down liquids and a host of medical professionals were not able to diagnose and treat the child in a timely manner. In addition to Geisinger, other named defendants included Wilkes-Barre General Hospital, Dr. Ashok Subramanian, Gary Lawrence, and others.

Judge William Amesbury approved the agreement for the $6.5 million, of which roughly $2.7 million will be used to pay legal fees and expenses. An attorney for the plaintiffs explained that based on the terms of the settlement, he was unable to issue further comments on the matter. David Jolley issued a statement on Geisinger's behalf after the settlement, stating it was an “amicable settlement” and expressed condolences for the family. The Geisinger Health System is led by physicians and maintains a headquarters in Danville, Pennsylvania. It is a not-for-profit medical system with locations in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Hayes and Harowicz brought the boy to Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center in Plains Township in 2015 complaining of nausea and diarrhea. Doctors had difficulty identifying the condition and transferred him to Janet Weis Children's Hospital in Danville. The claim says that Gunner was released from the hospital “without any real answers of what was wrong.” Emergency personnel deemed the problem to be “just a virus.” After returning to the hospital, an ultrasound revealed a problem in the bowel and he was slated for possible surgery.

The boy was found to have a heart rate of 230 beats per minute, well beyond a normal level. Later, while in a hospital bed, the boy was not responding and his pulse was faint. Just prior to being pronounced dead, the medical staff tried CPR, but could not maintain proper circulation for any periods of time.

Sepsis Diagnosis and Consequences

Sepsis is a dangerous malfunction in the organs caused by an infection. Often life-threatening, sepsis happens when the body sends chemicals into the blood to combat an infection that causes inflammatory reactions. The reactions can damage organs to the point where they are not functional. Septic shock is typically detected when there is a significant drop in blood pressure (hypotension) and the results frequently have fatal consequences.

The plaintiff's claim, which requested a jury trial, asserted that the death was preventable. Dr. Syed Jaffar Kazmi conducted an autopsy on Gunner. His findings were that intestinal dysfunction and dehydration brought on septic shock. Kazmi believed that the bowel problem likely existed for several days prior to death. Such intestinal obstructions were cited as a commonly seen condition among younger children under the age of six.

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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