April 22, 2012, ERIE, PA — Today’s newspaper reported an Erie medical malpractice settlement agreement. Most notable is the fact that there was a story at all. Most Pennsylvania medical negligence settlements are subject to strict confidentiality agreements. However, a law requiring judicial approval of death cases and the coincidence of a reporter paying attention at the right time brought the story to light.
The article reports that two Erie doctors agreed to pay a medical malpractice settlement arising out of claims that they over-prescribed narcotic pain control medication to a man who subsequently died from an overdose.
The man suffered multiple back fractures in a 1977 construction accident fall and had been suffering from chronic back and hip pain. He saw his family doctor and a pain control clinic. Both prescribed him powerful narcotic pain control medications when both knew of the others’ prescriptions and when, his survivors allege, both should have known he’d become addicted.
The settlement of $395,000, will largely go to pay costs of litigation. Over $25,000 was spent by plaintiffs in out-of-pocket costs and another $158,000 in attorney fees. The man’s wife will receive approximately $105,000 and her two daughters each will receive approximately $53,000.
Many of the facts of this Erie medical malpractice case were not reported because of the confidentiality agreement but certain universal medical negligence litigation truths are illustrated by the known facts. First, the case was costly. Putting aside the attorney fees (almost always contingent and a percentage of the amount recovered), the actual costs for experts and records and the like was over $25,000.
Second, the litigation was lengthy. The victim of these medical errors died in 2004. Litigation was almost certainly initiated within two years of his death. This means that the parties were embroiled in litigation that lasted at least six years.
Third, no one has admitted fault. The common tactics of delay and deny were employed to effect by the defendants.
Fourth, and finally, the details are protected from public view by a confidentiality agreement, almost certainly one that the phsyician defendants insisted upon as a condition of settlement.
As Erie medical malpractice attorneys, we are committed to “pulling back the curtain” that surrounds Pennsylvania medical error litigation. You can find lots of free information here on our site and we encourage people who have been seriously injured by a Pennsylvania health care mistake to call for a free consultation (814-833-7100) with a Pennsylvania medical malpractice lawyer or use our on-line inquiry forms.