Edward and Cheryl Dallies brought a medical malpractice action in Lawrence County that led to a jury trial. Mr. Dallies was treated by defendants Dr. John Lehman and Dr. Lawrence Rahall at ASP Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Brighton Township. Dallies initially sought treatment for an injury to the left forearm. He then developed a spinal infection that was allegedly not properly diagnosed and treated. The lower half of his body has been left paralyzed. The claim also named Ellwood City Hospital as a defendant; however, they were dismissed from the case. The jury returned a verdict that awarded the family $4.8 million in damages.
Roughly $183,673 of the total award was allocated for future medical expenses. Approximately $1.23 million of the award was for noneconomic damages that included pain, suffering, and disfigurement. About $350,000 of the award was designated for prior and future losses of earnings. The jury determined that 30% of the fault rested with Dr. Lehman and 70% was attributed to Dr. Rahall.
Failures to Adhere to Standards of Medical Practice
The initial left forearm injury apparently became infected and then progressed to the spinal cord region. The claim stated that the problem could have been prevented if proper treatment had occurred. Dallies is now enduring forms of nerve damage that are believed to be permanent. The negligence of the defendants included a failure to detect the spinal condition. This could have been achieved through proper diagnostic screening and lab work. The MRI imaging machine at Ellwood Hospital was apparently unable to “accommodate” him and no other alternative was ever followed through on.
Dallies also suffered a compression fracture in his back that was not properly handled. The failure to address this problem earlier is believed to have caused neurological problems. He was previously employed as an operator of heavy machinery and has been unable to return to work. An attorney for the plaintiff felt the court did a good job of maintaining fairness in the case.
- Pennsylvania implemented a Comparative Negligence Act that allows plaintiffs to still pursue reparations as long as the negligence of the defendant is greater than any amount of negligence attributed to them
- The plaintiff may still recover damages as long as their negligence does not exceed 50%
- Any percentage of negligence allocated to the plaintiff is simply reduced proportionally from any award for damages
- When there are multiple defendants, the same proportional allocation of negligence may be applied among them
For example, assume the jury awards $100,000 in damages for the plaintiff. If the jury determined that the plaintiff's own negligence in the incident was 20%, then the maximum amount recoverable would be $80,000.
The Pennsylvania Uniform Contribution Among Joint Tortfeasors Act
This Act applies when there are multiple defendants (“tortfeasors”) that contributed to the injuries of the plaintiff. When any particular defendant is found to have contributed less than 60% of the overall negligence, they are only liable for that percentage. If any defendant is deemed to be more than 60% at fault, they may be liable for the full amount of damages. There are some exceptions that exist, such as when the defendant's actions are deemed to have been intentional.