Pennsylvania hospital must pay $1.5 million in lawsuit over wrongful death following heart surgery

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by Jay Pate

Simon Struzzeri was admitted to Wilkes-Barre General Hospital in Pennsylvania early one morning in 2007. As had been scheduled, Struzzeri had heart surgery that morning, including mitral valve and coronary artery repair. Later that same day, a nitroglycerin drip was administered to maintain Struzzeri’s blood pressure. His blood pressure soon dropped, and less than a half hour later, CPR and other emergency measures were underway. He was soon taken back to the operating room and placed on cardiopulmonary artery bypass. He was pronounced about two hours after the nitroglycerin drip had been administered.

Janet Struzzeri, as administratrix of her husband’s estate of her husband, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Wilkes-Barre General Hospital and Wyoming Valley Healthcare System, Inc., alleging that a hospital nurse administered the nitroglycerin drip despite no doctor order to do so. The lawsuit alleged that the potent drug—an intravenous form of Labetalol—should not have been administered because Struzzeri’s systolic blood pressure was not high enough to warrant use of the drug. Additionally, the nurse administered Labetalol every two or three minutes when, if it was to be given, it should have been given to the patient every five minutes.

Following trial, a Luzerne County, Pennsylvania jury has retuned a verdict against the hospital. The jury awarded $10,000 in death-related expenses, $280,000 in economic damages and $1.2 million for emotional distress damages.

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* Michael Heygood, James Craig Orr, Jr. and Eric Pearson are all Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law — Texas Board of Legal Specialization.

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