Medical malpractice trial gets a slow start

By Jon Campisi | Jul 20, 2011

A two-year old case in which relatives of a now-deceased man are suing medical care facilities for injuries suffered by their loved one relating to his development of pressure ulcers has finally come to trial, but proceedings have been slow to get started.

Jury selection in Williams v. Willow Terrace took longer than expected, and opening arguments were pushed back until late this week.

Stanley Thompson, director of the Complex Litigation Center at the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, had initially said the trial was expected to start Monday, July 18, but it kept getting pushed back because selecting the 12-member jury took longer than expected.

Then, on July 20, when it finally appeared as though things would get moving, Judge Ricardo C. Jackson delivered his instructions to the jury, before abruptly sending them home for the day.

Earlier in the day, before the jury was seated and sworn in, attorneys for plaintiff Camay E. Williams, who is suing as executrix of the estate of her late father, Marcel Mackey, Sr., rattled off a list of pre-trial motions, some of which were approved by the judge, others denied.

Williams’ attorneys include Ruben J. Krisztal and Bennie Lazzara of the firm Wilkes & McHugh.

The defendants in the case are Philadelphia-based nursing home Willow Terrace, Albert Einstein Medical Center and Albert Einstein Healthcare Network, Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals, St. Agnes Continuing Care Center, St. Agnes Long Term Care, LLP and Mercy Health System.

When the case was first filed in early 2009, the lead defendant was Hahnemann University Hospital, court records show. But on Wednesday, during pre-trial motions, it was revealed that the case against Hahnemann was dropped since it was determined that the late Mackey’s pressure ulcers didn’t develop until after he left Hahnemann, where he had initially been taken after suffering a stroke.

As the morning unfolded, attorneys for the plaintiff and the defendants went back and forth on pre-trial motions made by Williams’ team of lawyers.

One motion had to do with whether or not the defense should be allowed to refer to their clients as "nonprofits." Plaintiffs’ attorneys argued it could prejudice the jury, since any money lost to the defense in a potential plaintiff’s verdict could be seen as a worthy nonprofit organization losing out on important revenue to help their needy patients.

Another pre-trial motion by the plaintiffs’ attorneys touched on whether relatives of Mackey’s could talk about pre-existing conditions he had prior to developing pressure ulcers, such as diabetes. The defense contended it should be allowed, albeit not treated as expert witness testimony.

“We’re not seeking to turn these individuals into experts,” said defense attorney J. Michael Doyle, of the Philadelphia firm Post & Schell, which is representing defendants Willow Terrace. “They have certain observations they shouldn’t be precluded from offering if they’re asked.”

Plaintiff’s attorneys maintained it would be inappropriate for mere family members to speak about a man’s medical history as if they were medical professionals.

Jackson said some of the motions were more appropriate to be raised during the actual proceedings, and so he decided to rule on many during the course of the trial as they arose.

As the day came to a close, it appeared as though opening statements would begin. But given the late hour, Jackson decided to send everyone home for the day so the trial could get a fresh start July 21.

The case number is 090303774.

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