Superior Court upholds dismissal of medical malpractice suit against Mount Nittany

By John Sammon | Jun 9, 2017

HARRISBURG — The state Superior Court has affirmed the dismissal of a medical malpractice lawsuit from a woman who, after undergoing a cesarean section and successful deliverance of a baby in March 2013, alleged that the hospital botched a treatment to stop internal bleeding.

The claim filed on Feb 26, 2015, by Bernadette Snyder and Travis Snyder alleged malpractice against Mount Nittany Medical Center, in State College, and Dr. Sara Barwise, Dr. Michael Feffer and Dr. Upendra Thaker. The Superior Court reached its decision on May 26.

After the birth, Bernadette Snyder suffered cardiac arrest and had to be revived by cardiopulmonary resuscitation. When internal bleeding began, the suit alleged that medical staffers had improperly placed a medication line to stop her internal bleeding from lack of proper blood clotting. 

During Snyder’s treatment, a condition known as “disseminated intravascular coagulation” resulted, necessitating the installation of a line to introduce medication to counteract the bleeding.

Staffers at Mount Nittany Medical Center were unable to stop the bleeding, and Snyder was transferred to the Geisinger Clinic in Danville. There, an X-ray revealed the medication line had been placed in the wrong position. The line was removed, and Snyder’s condition was stabilized.

Snyder maintained that her recovery was prolonged and she suffered side effects because of the faulty medical treatment.

In January 2016, the Snyders were required to produce reports by expert witnesses at a trial scheduled for May 15, 2016. Mount Nittany submitted two reports from its own expert witnesses who stated the treatments given to Snyder had not deviated from standard care.

The Snyders produced no expert witness report of their own contradicting the defendants.

The defendants made a move for summary judgment, which the court granted, and the action was dismissed. The Snyders then appealed the decision.

Since the burden of proof of malpractice negligence is placed on the plaintiff, the court stated the couple were required to produce a medical expert who would testify to the malpractice allegations. Instead, the court said the Snyders relied on an exception to the rule, in which the malpractice is so obvious it could be recognized by a layperson as well as an expert.          

The court determined no such precondition was present, and the couple had failed to produce the report of an expert witness during the hearing that could prove the defendants were negligent.

The court brief stated that Bernadette Snyder's medical condition "could have happened even though the defendants exercised reasonable care. Expert testimony was necessary to establish that the defendants were negligent.”

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