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Harmful Drugs & Devices • Defective Products • Medical Malpractice
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For Immediate Release
$5 Million Wrongful Death Verdict for Failure of Surgical Staples

(Pittsburgh PA) A wrongful death case was brought on behalf of Daniel Selepec as a result of the death of his wife Sarah, a 40 year old mother, who passed away after she underwent gastric bypass surgery at West Penn Hospital in Pittsburgh.

Suit was filed against Ethicon Endo-Surgery, Inc., a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, as manufacturer of an endocutter surgical stapler used in the surgery, on a product liability theory. The case was tried before Judge Robert P. Horgos, in the Court of Common Pleas, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.

The plaintiff was represented by Alan H. Perer, senior partner at SPK, Pittsburgh.

Mrs. Selepec weighed over 300 pounds and suffered from back and knee pain, diabetes, depression and asthma. She underwent gastric bypass surgery in an effort to reduce her weight. The surgeon who performed the surgery used a endocutter surgical stapler made by Ethicon. The patient developed peritonitis post-operatively and died soon afterwards.

Perer argued that the gastric leak and resulting death occured as a result of the failure of the Ethicon staples to properly close and produce a secure suture.

The defendant Ethicon claimed the staples didn't close because they were too small to cinch around Selepec's stomach tissue, and that that surgeon should have used larger staples. It was unclear, however, how the doctor was supposed to make the determination of what size staple to use.

The case went to the jury, who after a short deliberation found for the plaintiff with an award of $5 million

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For Immediate Release

( Pittsburgh PA ) After a five day trial, Attorney Alan Perer successfully obtained a jury verdict of 2.7 Million Dollars for two adult children whose mother, while an employee at a trucking terminal, was crushed to death by a truck at her company’s trucking terminal.

Our clients’ mother worked as a night-shift billing clerk for a freight company. At her place of employment, the employee smoking area was outside the employee parking lot – requiring employees to travel through the depot gates and through dangerous truck traffic.

The decedent was killed when she was struck by a truck while returning from a cigarette break. Attorney Perer said that “the lighting was terrible – it was a free-for all.

Truck drivers had to stop to avoid pedestrians; pedestrians had to scramble around trucks. Employees complained to supervisors, some of whom were smokers. This was an accident waiting to happen."

The jury verdict recognized the special relationship between the mother and her 32 year old daughter. They were “best friends.” Mom cared for her daughter’s son daily. They spoke many times a day. And her daughter relied on her mom for advice and guidance continually.

The defendant company appealed the verdict, but settled during the appeal. 

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For Immediate Release

( Pittsburgh PA ) In July 2004, Alan Perer reached a settlement with two generic over-the-counter drug manufacturers for $5.1 million. It is believed to be the U.S. ’s largest single settlement for a PPA-caused stroke/death.

In 1997, our client’s 34 year-old wife took an over-the-counter drug containing PPA she purchased at a local supermarket. The drug was a generic form of Dimetapp. Shortly after taking the product, she suffered a hemorrhagic stroke. De-spite being life-flighted to Pittsburgh and undergoing brain surgery, the woman died 10 days later.

In November of 2000, the FDA asked all manufacturers of OTC medications containing PPA to remove such products from the market. However, Alan Perer was able to prove that the drug companies knew of the dangers of PPA for decades before the FDA action, but did nothing to warn consumers or reformulate their products. Instead, the companies continued to profit from substantial annual sales while unsuspecting users died or were crippled by the product.

A trial was scheduled for September 2004, but the case was submitted to mediation and settled for $5.1 million. The victim was survived by her husband and three young children. 

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For Immediate Release
Misdiagnosis: $3,000,000 Verdict for Patient Wrongly Labeled an Alcoholic and Not Treated for Unrelated Liver Disease

 ( Pittsburgh PA ) Recently, a study found that preventable, in-hospital medical errors kill an average of 195,000 Americans annually, injure even more and cost the public $6 billion in extra medical costs. [Source: PaTLA News, August 2, 2004 ]

Despite this shocking death and injury rate, advocates of “tort reform” are seeking to limit the liability of the medical community for its actions. In effect, this would be taking away from innocent victims the only recourse they have when misdiagnosis causes catastrophic harm. And it denies the public a means of discouraging negligent medical behavior and encouraging competency among medical practitioners.

A good example comes from a recent case in which Attorney Alan Perer successfully represented a federal court clerk whose doctor erroneously believed he was an alcoholic, and refused to treat him for a liver disease. Because of the misdiagnosis, our client would suffer irreversible liver damage.

“Tragically the doctor stuck to this misdiagnosis for over two years until it was too late,” said Perer. Our client was eventually diagnosed with cirrhosis, an end-stage liver disease that will likely lead to his death, unless he can obtain a liver transplant.

The jury deliberated for two hours before awarding $3,000,000 to our client. The jury found that the defendant doctor misdiagnosed the condition as alcoholism after tests in 1997 showed abnormal liver enzymes.

“Our client never had a drinking problem,” explained Perer, “the doctor made a fatal assumption that could have been alleviated by a quick, inexpensive medical test.”

How could such a critical mistake have been made? Or, perhaps more importantly, how can it be prevented in the future?

This much is certain, it will not be prevented if the medical community is not held responsible for its actions. 

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For Immediate Release

 ( Pittsburgh PA ) After over six years of appeals, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court allowed our clients to collect an insurance bad faith verdict obtained by Attorney Alan Perer.

In 1997, Attorney Perer obtained a $1.15 million verdict against Chubb Insurance Company for their bad faith denial of our client’s insurance claim for property damage to their home.

Interestingly, according to Perer, this was one of the last bad faith cases to be tried to a jury in Pennsylvania as the Supreme Court subsequently held that such cases were to be tried before a judge.

“After six years of appeals our client finally received justice.” 

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For Immediate Release

( Pittsburgh PA ) SPK has filed multiple suits and a class action complaint against Allegheny General Hospital and two corporations as a result of an outbreak of a pseudomonas infection caused by contaminated bronchoscopes in 2002. Over 500 patients were exposed to the infection and some suffered fatal illnesses due to the bacteria.

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For Immediate Release

( Pittsburgh PA ) Alan Perer recovered $750,000 for the family of a 73 year old man who was hospitalized for an allergic reaction to an antibiotic. Due to negligent monitoring of blood thinners he suffered bleeding in the brain which resulted in his death.

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For Immediate Release

( Pittsburgh PA ) A class action against Nationwide Insurance Company has been filed on behalf of hundreds of homeowners who were illegally denied property damage payment for damage caused by tree roots that grew into and blocked water and sewage lines. Nationwide denied multiple claims even though they were not excluded under the policy at the time.

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For Immediate Release

(Somerset, PA) Tried in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, before the Honorable Eugene Fike, this case concerned a five-month delay in diagnosing testicular cancer in a 31-year-old man from Somerset, Pennsylvania. The case was unusual in that ultimately it was presented to the jury as an ordinary negligence case only. What happened in the case is that there was a breakdown in the communication of an abnormal ultrasound report from Somerset Hospital to the patient as well the urologist, Dr. Shank. The sole issues in the case concerned office procedures and policies of the urologist, Somerset Hospital, and the primary care physicians.

The urologist contended that while his office bore responsibility for misplacing the mailed test, he claimed he should have been called by the hospital under their policies and under his custom in dealing with them. The primary care physician admitted that they were supposed to call the patient with the abnormal results. Due to the breakdown in the system, the patient remained undiagnosed for five months, and the cancer spread to a lymph node in his retroperitoneal area.

As a result, the patient needed major surgery to remove the lymph node and chemotherapy, when the treatment likely could have been avoided had it been diagnosed at the earliest stage. The plaintiff also then was at a slightly elevated risk of future recurrence, and he suffered some complications of the chemotherapy.

The jury returned a verdict of approximately $375,000 against the urologist 80 percent and Somerset Hospital 20 percent. They found that the primary care physician was negligent but that the negligence was not a factual cause of the plaintiff’s harm.

Because the case was tried as an ordinary negligence case, the only expert testimony related to causation and the effect of the delay in allowing the cancer to spread. The defendants were barred from offering expert testimony on standard of care, since there was no question as to the standard of care, but only a question as whether or not the defendants had followed their own policies and procedures.

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For Immediate Release

(Pittsburgh, PA) On December 19, 2003, Karen Jenesky, age 47, was in a bank in a local neighborhood in Pittsburgh, when she had to go to the bathroom. The bank would not let her use their restroom but told her she should try next door where there was a chiropractic office. She was not a patient of the chiropractor. Karen opened the door and asked the receptionist if she could use the restroom. The receptionist said yes and told her it was down the hall through the door to the right. As she proceeded down the hall, there was an office straight ahead of her at the end of the hall which did not appear to be a bathroom. There was a door to the right immediately before the office, and Karen opened the door and immediately fell down cellar steps. There was no signage on the door whatsoever.

The problem with the door was that it opened over a steep set of stairs without any type of landing. The light was off, and there was no handrail to catch herself. Karen fractured her neck and shattered her right elbow. She underwent several surgeries and has made a reasonable recovery except for the fact that her condition remains painful, and she has limited use of her elbow and cannot turn her neck completely.

This case was tried with a verdict on January 27, 2006. The case was tried in Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, in front of newly installed Judge Beth Lazzara.

Alan Perer presented the testimony of Joseph Indovina, an architect, indicating that this was a dangerous condition and was contrary to any recognized design and construction standards. Alan Perer also provided alternatives, including a lock on the door, signage, etcetera, that would have eliminated this problem.

The jury awarded $500,000 that was molded to $325,000 to reflect 30 percent responsibility on Karen Jenesky. The case was paid.

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For Immediate Release

(Pittsburgh, PA) On June 17, 2003, 35-year-old man, Michael Pfister drove his father’s car, in a 25-mile-an-hour zone, crossed the highway and collided head on with Mr. Wagner, our client. Mr. Wagner was a 64-year-old retired elevator repairman, who suffered a comminuted fracture of his knee, torn cartilage in his knee, and partially torn ligaments in his knee. He was placed in a long leg cast for three and a half months and then underwent physical therapy. He is left with some arthritis in his knee, and he faces the prospect of having arthroscopic surgery or a knee replacement in the future. He has made a pretty good recovery and is able to golf, drive and handle his affairs of daily living.

This case was tried to a jury verdict on March 7, 2006, before Judge Bernard Lutty in Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.

The interesting part of the case was that Alan learned that Mr. Pfister’s license was under suspension when he operated his father’s car on the day he collided with Mr. Wagner. He also learned that he had wrecked his own car while under suspension two months before and had a long history of accidents, suspensions, citations, and a DUI conviction. A claim was brought against Mr. Pfister’s father who owned the car for negligent entrustment. As a result of the fact that the father denied that he negligently entrusted the vehicle, his son’s driving record was placed before the jury. The jury returned a verdict against both the son and the father in the amount of $110,000. No appeal was filed.

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