Lehigh Valley Hospital cleared of malpractice claim following appeal

By Charmaine Little | Jul 16, 2018

HARRISBURG - A lawsuit filed by the administrator of a woman's estate will not proceed after a jury and appeals court both concluded that Lehigh Valley Hospital and its physicians were not guilty of medical malpractice.

While Edward Kornberger, administrator of the estate of Donna Zappasodi, wanted the case to be retried, on June 11 the Superior Court of Pennsylvania upheld a Court of Common Pleas of Lehigh County ruling clearing the hospital of the malpractice charge.

The Superior Court said in its ruling that it would only reverse a ruling that denied a new trial if the lower court abused its discretion and if the error was significant enough to warrant a new trial.

Zappasodi was treated after she was allegedly hurt from a fall at the hospital. She was discharged from the hospital and fell again the following day.

Superior Court Judge Jack Panella   PA Courts

When she was being treated after the second fall, Zappasodi was diagnosed with pelvic and sacral fractures and was admitted into the intensive care unit and then the trauma transitional unit. She allegedly also contracted possible pneumonia and a bowel obstruction. Although she was treated for the possible obstruction, Zappasodi later died.

The defendants claimed that Zappasodi died from complications from her fall, as well as a result of her pre-existing cardio-vascular disease, not from the bowel obstruction.

The jury disagreed and determined the defendants were not negligent.

On appeal, the plaintiff said the lower court should have included expert testimony from the physician that did the autopsy. However, the Superior Court said in its ruling that the doctor's testimony was not included because she was not listed as an expert during discovery.

The Superior Court also refuted the plaintiff's argument that the trial court “presumed prejudice to the defendants,” saying in the opinion that the trial court took everything into account when making its decision.

Kornberger also claimed that the trial court allowed a defense expert to give testimony that was not part of his expert report. The Superior Court said the witness in question did not give testimony that was beyond his scope of expertise.

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