Superior Court rules for doctors in appeal of wrongful death decision

By Carrie Salls | Jun 12, 2017

PITTSBURGH — The state Superior Court has upheld a 2015 finding that two doctors who treated a woman who died from a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm did not hide a diagnosis or misstate the cause of death.

According to the May 26 ruling affirming a Mercer County court decision, the Superior Court also rejected claims by the executor of the estate and the sister of decedent Faye M. Davis that the lower court was wrong in ruling that the two-year statute of limitations for wrongful death and survival claims applied to the lawsuit.

According to the lawsuit filed by executor Scott R. Debonis and sister Mildred Harris, Davis had a computer tomography (CT) scan after visiting Dr. James Ezi-Ashi in December 2003 because of stomach pain. Ezi-Ashi’s order for the scan was sent to Davis’ primary care physician, Gregory A. George.

“The CT scan revealed a ‘5.1 cm abdominal aneurysm,’” according to the decision, and the results of a subsequent biopsy were sent to Dr. George.

However, the ruling stated “neither Dr. Ezi-Ashi nor Dr. George informed decedent of the biopsy results,” even when Davis had several other appointments with Dr. George for issues that were possibly related to the aneurysm.

On Jan. 2, 2007, Davis went to Sharon Regional Hospital, where medical staff saw the aneurysm on an image taken the day before. The aneurysm ruptured, and Davis died at the hospital that day.

In January 2015, a Mercer County jury ruled in favor of the doctors, who alleged that the claims of Davis’ executor and sister should not be allowed because the statute of limitations had run out.

The Superior Court agreed.

“We conclude that appellees did not fraudulently conceal or misrepresent the cause of decedent’s death and that the two-year limitations period barred appellants’ wrongful death and survival claims against appellees,” the Superior Court said in its ruling.

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