Kristine Coleman, a 41-year-old mother and employee of Allied Services, was admitted to Geisinger Community Medical Center (GCMC) with serious pain in her left arm and shoulder. The staff ordered cardiac testing, including a cardiac catheterization to check for blocked arteries.
Dr. Chua Fe Huang abruptly canceled the catheterization for reasons unknown, which was never conducted, although this test is critical because it is the only way to determine if Coleman had a myocardial infarction (heart attack). She was discharged from the hospital and went home; however, returned shortly thereafter by ambulance with a shortness of breath.
Dr. Paul Dubiel was the physician that saw her in the emergency room and determined that her diagnosis was pneumonia. Hours later, she fell into cardiac arrest and died. An autopsy was later conducted showing that Coleman had a heart attack that was not diagnosed.
Thomas Coleman filed a medical malpractice suit accusing GCMC and the two doctors of a failure in diagnosis. The matter was brought in Lackawanna County Court. After negotiation, Judge James Gibbons announced that a settlement had been reached between the parties for $3.5 million. The insurance providers for the defendants will pay $2 million, with Pennsylvania’s Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error Fund (Mcare) paying the $1.5 million balance.
The law firm that represented the Coleman’s will receive $1.4 million in legal fees and roughly $187,000 in additional expenditures. A total of $1.91 million will go to the estate and be split between the husband and the children. The children’s funds went into a trust account for them, also approved by Judge Gibbons.
Pennsylvania established Mcare as a specific fund within the State Treasury Department. These funds are used to cover claims for awards in cases of malpractice that surpass the healthcare provider’s malpractice insurance limit. The goal is to be sure that reasonable financial compensation is available for the injured victims across the state. According to the state’s 2016 report, Mcare is continuing to provide this coverage and paid out $174 million that year. In addition, Mcare assisted insurance providers, those who are self-insured and others with education, support and guidance in developing their operations and staying current in the state medical malpractice landscape.
Mcare recognizes that litigation associated with medical malpractice is complex and costly. The organization has advanced their efforts to increasingly use alternative dispute resolution strategies to seek solutions. Further, they have applied mediation and arbitration much more to avoid lengthy trials. Mcare routinely functions as an unbiased intermediary that seeks to lower costs and unpredictability, while still finding mutually beneficial agreements.