Insight

Settlement Exposes Risk of Surgical Centers

Josh Koskoff hopes his firm's latest wrongful death settlement will encourage surgical centers to put systems in place that protect patients’ safety.

Koskoff Koskoff & Bieder's Injury Prevention
JS

Justin Smulison

April 5, 2019 05:24 PM

Koskoff Koskoff & Bieder PC has been one of Connecticut's leading plaintiff's trial firms for more than 80 years. Its attorneys have won 6 of the 10 largest personal injury verdicts in state history, including both medical malpractice and personal injury cases.

But its mission of providing quality legal representation and caring and responsive client service is what drives them. In the past year, Koskoff continued its tradition of fighting for justice in major injury cases when its lawyers negotiated a settlement with a Connecticut surgical center on behalf of a deceased man’s family.

Koskoff attorneys Josh Koskoff, Michael Koskoff, Jim Horwitz and Katie Mesner-Hage broke new ground in a wrongful death claim that exposed the failures at the center and achieved justice for a large family whose patriarch had been taken from them too soon.

The Case

The firm was hired by the family of a 53-year-old bus driver for the Connecticut Transit Authority. The father of eight was admitted for back surgery at a Fairfield County, Connecticut surgical center in 2013, an option that had been presented as a legitimate alternative to a hospital admission. The center had relocated shortly before the surgery, which Joshua Koskoff said was the ultimate source of the tragedy.

“The facility was still being organized and storing its medications, and the wrong bag of fluid was used to administer the client's anesthesia,” Koskoff said. “Instead of Hespan, a benign medication, the anesthesiologist accidentally used a toxic medication called Lidocaine, which is only used for patients who go into cardiac arrest in the operating room.”

The plaintiff died shortly after being transferred to a nearby hospital in a last-ditch, life-saving effort. Within a week of the patient’s death, the anesthesiologist was preparing for another procedure and reached to where she believed bags of Hespan would be. She found Lidocaine instead and realized upon further inspection that the wrong fluid had been used during the prior back surgery.

“The anesthesiologist thankfully did the right thing and reported her finding to the surgery center,” Koskoff said. This systemic failure, coupled with the inherent risk of human error, ultimately caused the death of the patient, whose family turned to Koskoff for justice.

The Strategy

Koskoff and Horwitz performed a root cause analysis which led back to the center's haphazard way of storing the medication.

“We learned there were 18 bags of Lidocaine available—which is approximately 16 more than a surgical center would need for several years,” Koskoff said, “and because of its toxicity and resemblance to more common anesthetics, it should have been locked up and segregated from other medications.”

The Koskoff team brought the case before the Superior Court in the Judicial District of Fairfield-Bridgeport. They planned to exploit how the center's disorganization led to the fatal, negligent error.

On the first day of presenting evidence, the team reached a settlement with the defendants on behalf of the victim’s family. Koskoff declined to comment on the settlement, citing confidentiality.

The Precedent

Koskoff said the case shines a light on the practices of surgical centers. Surgical centers are not as heavily regulated as hospitals, and they lack oversight that can lead to faulty risk management systems. He added that he hopes that as a result of this important case, other healthcare providers and administrators in the state will ensure proper medication storage measures are in place to protect the safety of their patients.

“If healthcare providers take corrective measures now, it can substantially reduce the likelihood that human error will result in catastrophic harm to patients,” he said.

The firm currently has two other pending wrongful death cases against surgery centers. Koskoff said the circumstances are strikingly similar—patients are undergoing relatively minor operations and not surviving.

“I think that a lot of our cases are moving in the direction of addressing system failures. Human error is inevitable, which is why healthcare facilities have to put systems in place that anticipate that risk and guard against it,” Koskoff said. “Our hope is that exposing these faulty systems will educate surgery centers and save lives.”

Related Articles

A Historic Settlement and the Start of Sweeping Change


by Justin Smulison

Koskoff Koskoff & Bieder made U.S. history in 2022 by securing a landmark wrongful death settlement on behalf of the families of Sandy Hook Elementary shooting victims. That trailblazing result demonstrated the breadth and depth of the firm’s experience and practice areas. The work continues, as the firm prepares for a related, high-profile defamation trial in the fall.

Sandy Hook Families Receive Historic Settleme

Reworking Connecticut's Solicitation Laws


by Gregory Sirico

Best Lawyers highlights legislation out of Connecticut addressing state solicitation and regulatory laws.

Reworking Connecticut's Solicitation Laws

Connecticut "Lawyer of the Year" 2022


by Best Lawyers

Tanya A. Bovée is honored as 2022 "Lawyer of the Year" in Connecticut for Employment Law-Management.

Connecticut "Lawyer of the Year" 2022

Connecticut's Best Lawyers 2022


by Best Lawyers

Our Connecticut's Best Lawyers 2022 publication features top-ranked legal talent in Hartford, New Haven, New London and Stamford.

Connecticut's Best Lawyers 2022

New York's Best Lawyers 2022


by Best Lawyers

Our 2022 New York's Best Lawyers publication features top-ranked legal talent and legal editorial from firms in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

New York's Best Lawyers 2022

Nina T. Pirrotti - New Haven 2020 Lawyer of the Year


by Best Lawyers

Employment Law - Individuals New Haven, Connecticut

Nina Pirrotti

The Price of Admission


by Janice Zhou

States and the federal government are engaged in a pitched battle over immigration and refugee settlement—with the legal profession caught in the middle, taking fire from both sides.

Immigration Reform in Connecticut

Engineered for Success


by Justin Smulison

Koskoff’s product-liability leader, Bill Bloss, explains how his group combines legal knowledge with engineering insight for the benefit of their clients—and future consumers as well

Bill Bloss Best Lawyers 2020

What Makes a Good Education Attorney?


by Best Lawyers

Alyce Alfano of Shipman & Goodwin discusses her 2019 "Lawyer of the Year" award for Education Law in Connecticut.

Alyce Alfano Interview "Lawyer of the Year"

Trial-Tested


by Sean Stonefield

Pribanic & Pribanic’s attorneys bring years of courtroom experience to advocating for the injured and disabled.

Pribanic & Pribanic Personal Injury History

A Rebel with a Cause


by Margaret Pierce

Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow & McElroy: A Firm Fighting for the Injured.

Personal Injury Litigation

Trending Articles

The Real Camille: An Interview with Johnny Depp’s Lawyer Camille Vasquez


by Rebecca Blackwell

Camille Vasquez, a young lawyer at Brown Rudnick, sat down with Best Lawyers CEO Phillip Greer to talk about her distinguished career, recently being named partner and what comes next for her.

Camille Vasquez in office

Announcing the 2022 Best Lawyers® in the United States


by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers listed in the 28th Edition of The Best Lawyers in America® and in the 2nd Edition of Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch in America for 2022.

2022 Best Lawyers Listings for United States

Famous Songs Unprotected by Copyright Could Mean Royalties for Some


by Michael B. Fein

A guide to navigating copyright claims on famous songs.

Can I Sing "Happy Birthday" in Public?

Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch – The Future of Legal Talent Looks Bright


by Justin Smulison

Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch is launching its second edition in the United States, and after talking with both a company leader and esteemed lawyers on the list, the importance of this prestigious list is evident.

Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch in America 2022

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard: The Best Lawyers Honorees Behind the Litigation


by Gregory Sirico

Best Lawyers takes a look at the recognized legal talent representing Johnny Depp and Amber Heard in their ongoing defamation trial.

Lawyers for Johnny Depp and Amber Heard

Why Cariola Díez Pérez-Cotapos Developed Its Own Legal Tech


by Best Lawyers

Juan Pablo Matus of Cariola Díez Pérez-Cotapos, 2019 "Law Firm of the Year" award for Corporate and M&A Law in Chile, discusses his firm's joint venture with Cognitiva in creating Lexnova, a legal AI system.

Cariola Díez Pérez-Cotapos Interview

Choosing a Title Company: What a Seller Should Expect


by Roy D. Oppenheim

When it comes to choosing a title company, how much power exactly does a seller have?

Choosing the Title Company As Seller

Announcing the 2022 "Best Law Firms" Rankings


by Best Lawyers

The 2022 “Best Law Firms” publication includes all “Law Firm of the Year” recipients, national and metro Tier 1 ranked firms and editorial from thought leaders in the legal industry.

The 2022 Best Law Firms Awards

Announcing the 2022 Best Lawyers in Canada™


by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers listed in the 16th Edition of The Best Lawyers in Canada™ and 1st Edition of Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch in Canada.

Announcing the 2022 Best Lawyers in Canada™

Education by Trial: Cultivating Legal Expertise in the Courtroom


by Margo Pierce

The intricacies of complex lawsuits require extensive knowledge of the legal precedent. But they also demand a high level of skill in every discipline needed to succeed at trial, such as analyzing technical reports and deposing expert witnesses.

Cultivating Legal Expertise in the Courtroom

Announcing The Best Lawyers in France™ 2023


by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers and firms from France.

Blue, white and red strips

Wage and Overtime Laws for Truck Drivers


by Greg Mansell

For truck drivers nationwide, underpayment and overtime violations are just the beginning of a long list of problems. Below we explore the wages you are entitled to but may not be receiving.

Truck Driver Wage and Overtime Laws in the US

Caffeine Overload and DUI Tests


by Daniel Taylor

While it might come as a surprise, the over-consumption of caffeine could trigger a false positive on a breathalyzer test.

Can Caffeine Cause You to Fail DUI Test?

Announcing the 2022 Best Lawyers™ in Australia


by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers and firms.

Announcing the 2022 Best Lawyers™ in Australi

Announcing The Best Lawyers in Australia™ 2023


by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers and firms from Australia.

The Best Lawyers in Australia™ 2023

Announcing The Best Lawyers in The United Kingdom™ 2023


by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers and firms from the United Kingdom.

The Best Lawyers in The United Kingdom 2023