Pennsylvania Record

Monday, October 21, 2019

Geisinger Medical Center beats lawsuit over bypass surgery


By Tomas Kassahun | Apr 11, 2019

HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Superior Court recently affirmed a trial court’s ruling in favor of Geisinger Community Medical Center (GCMC) in a lawsuit filed by a patient claiming negligence regarding his coronary artery bypass graft surgery. 

The memorandum by Superior Court Judge Kate Ford Elliott filed March 27 said after Kenneth Lichtenberger experienced complications from the 2014 surgery he sued his cardiac surgeon, Deppak Singh, GCMC and the two physician assistants.

Lichtenberger’s complaint filed in in Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas included claims of negligence against the individuals, vicarious liability against GCMC and corporate negligence against GCMC.

The jury in the trial determined there was no negligence, court filings said, and Lichtenberger then appealed the decision.   

In his appeal, Lichtenberger asked the Superior Court to review whether the trial court committed an error by refusing to permit Dr. Bruce P. Mindich to testify as to the applicable standard of care for harvesting a saphenous vein.

The Superior Court said Mindich’s expert report from 2016 demonstrates that he failed to set forth the applicable standard of care and he only suggested that certain conduct “fell outside acceptable professional standards” without identifying those “acceptable professional standards.” 

 “Therefore, the trial court properly precluded Dr. Mindich from testifying at trial as to the applicable standard of care,” the filing said.

The Superior Court said Lichtenberger also asked to review whether the trial court erred in refusing to permit him to offer testimony and evidence of the statement by physician Russell Stah regarding the diagnosis of the leg pain after it was reported to Stahl.

“Appellant claims that the trial court erred in not admitting Dr. Stahl’s statement that Dr. Stahl’s colleague had nicked appellant’s nerve,” the filing said.

According to the opinion, the trial court properly concluded that the medical treatment exception to the hearsay rule does not apply “because the statement that Dr. Stahl allegedly made to appellant and his neighbor was not made by a patient for the purpose of receiving medical treatment.”

The Superior Court said Lichtenberger also argued that the trial court erred when it permitted appellees to introduce evidence of known risks and complications of harvesting the saphenous vein in coronary artery bypass surgery. 

According to the opinion, Lichtenberger pointed to defense expert Dr. Walter Pae Jr. and claimed that Pae impermissibly and “continually testified before the jury that appellant’s injuries were a known risk and complication associated with the harvesting of the saphenous vein.”

“Our review of Dr. Pae’s testimony reveals that appellant failed to object to any of the testimony that he now challenges as inadmissible,” the opinion said. “It is well settled that a failure to object before the trial court results in waiver of the issue on appeal.”

In response to  Lichtenberger’s final argument, the Superior Court said he fails to demonstrate how Dr. Mindich’s Sept. 3, 2015, report “furnished, promised or offered a valuable consideration in compromising or attempting to compromise the claim during settlement negotiations to render it inadmissible.”


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