Superior Court reinstates wrongful death lawsuit against hospital

By Laura Halleman | May 18, 2017

HARRISBURG — The Superior Court of Pennsylvania on May 8 reversed a lower court’s decision that granted judgment to a hospital where a woman died in an emergency room based on the timeliness of the plaintiff's filing.

The Court of Common Pleas of Lebanon County had decided in favor of The Good Samaritan Hospital of Lebanon and Lebanon Emergency Physicians in the medical malpractice lawsuit, after the defendants claimed that the plaintiffs did not file their complaint in a timely manner.

On July 25, 2012, Damaris Reyes went to Good Samaritan’s emergency wing. She was experiencing vomiting, diarrhea, shortness of breath, headaches and back pain.

Reyes was pronounced dead four hours after arriving at the hospital. Fernando Melendez, administrator of Reyes’ estate, stated her death was “a direct result of doctors’ failure to timely recognize and treat septic shock, among other things.”

A complaint was filed by Melendez on July 3, 2014, seeking wrongful death and survival damages against Good Samaritan Hospital and Lebanon Emergency Physicians.

On the same day, the complaint came back to Melendez for no apparent reason.

Melendez believes that “one of its staff members mistakenly attempted service via a private process server. During the period of time that [appellant] believed service was being attempted, the staff member left the employ of [appellant]."

On Aug. 6, when he became aware of the issue, Melendez reinstated the complaint.

The statute of limitations for medical malpractice and wrongful death actions in the state of Pennsylvania is two years.

According to court documents, “Initially, appellant contends that the trial court erred when it dismissed the present action on the basis of defective service and the running of the statute of limitations when appellant timely filed, reinstated, and served the complaint in compliance with the statute of limitations and the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure.”

The lower court stated in its opinion that Melendez failed to reinstate the complaint. However, the Superior Court found that he, in fact, did reinstate the complaint, and the ruling was reversed.

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