Malpractice Suit Settles after Judge Refuses to Dismiss Punitive Damages Claim in Tragic Case Alleging Multiple Hospital Errors


New York firefighter Kevin Deane was skiing in lovely Vail, Colorado on April 1, 2007 when he fell and suffered a spinal cord injury requiring cervical discectomy and fusion surgery that was performed there without complication. When he flew back to New York City to undergo rehabilitation at Mount Sinai Hospital on April 6th, tragedy ensued. Kevin was admitted to the hospital that afternoon (a Friday) and he died about 60 hours later at 2:30 a.m. on April 9th (a Monday). He was 39 years old.

The cause of death was hemorrhage and aspiration of blood caused by the erosion of the surgically implanted hardware into the esophagus.

Claiming that this was a preventable death, a wrongful death lawsuit was filed against the hospital seeking not only damages for negligence but also punitive damages. It's extremely rare that a punitive damages claim (in which plaintiffs must prove reckless indifference) is even allowed to be considered by a jury in a medical malpractice case. And that's what the hospital argued here in making a motion to dismiss that part of the suit; however, the judge disagreed - strongly - and issued a decision released this week in Deane v. Mount Sinai Hospital. The punitive damages claim was allowed to proceed and be considered by the jury.

The judge stated that the hospital appeared to have made the following tragic mistakes...

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