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​​​$800,000 Verdict in Wrongful Death case where a lack of monitoring resulted in a patient’s death

On January 21, 2014, Partner, John Perkosky, and Associate, Ben Gobel, obtained an $800,000 medical malpractice jury verdict following a six day trial in Allegheny County. We brought the lawsuit on behalf of our client, Judy Cole, and her deceased husband, Robert Cole.

Mr. Cole died on March 7, 2008, at St. Clair Hospital in Mount Lebanon, a couple of hours after undergoing a bronchoscopy. Mr. Cole, only 64 years old, had recently retired from a long career with the United States Army Corp. of Engineers. The week before his death, Mr. Cole had been to another Pittsburgh hospital for two days for a minor cardiac procedure.

In the days that followed, Mr. Cole began developing a cough and significant shortness of breath. He went to his family doctor, who suspected that Mr. Cole had developed some type of respiratory complication, recommended that Mr. Cole be admitted to St. Clair Hospital. There, he was placed under the care of a pulmonologist, David Celko, M.D.

On his third day at St. Clair, Dr. Celko decided to perform a bronchoscopy procedure on Mr. Cole. This procedure involved inserting a thin, flexible tube into Mr. Cole's lungs. As part of the procedure, Dr. Celko also performed a biopsy, taking small samples of lung tissue. During the procedure and for roughly one and a half hours afterward, Mr. Cole was closely monitored. This monitoring included having Mr. Cole on a cardiac monitor, called telemetry, and using a pulse oximeter to monitor his respiratory status. In addition, the nursing staff frequently checked his vital signs.

Despite recognizing that (1) Mr. Cole may have developed a serious, potentially life threatening pulmonary condition and (2) that the bronchoscopy and related biopsy could cause his pulmonary condition to suddenly worsen hours after the procedure, after one and a half hours, Dr. Celko inexplicably ordered that Mr. Cole be placed in a hospital room without any monitoring. In other words, his cardiac and respiratory monitors, which were non-invasive and posed no risk or danger to Mr. Cole, were taken off. Tragically, roughly one hour later, a nurse found Mr. Cole, lying sideways in his bed, struggling to breathe. A code was called, but it was too late. Mr. Cole, having gone unmonitored, had suffered a respiratory arrest and died. Mr. Cole, who was an otherwise healthy and active man, was a dedicated and loving husband and father.

Mr. Cole's death was preventable and was the direct result of the negligent care he received. After a six day trial, an Allegheny County jury agreed, awarding $400,000 in wrongful death and $400,000 in survival claim damages, for a total verdict award of $800,000. It was our pleasure and honor in representing the Cole family and obtaining justice for them.