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HAMIL v. BASHLINE (06/14/73)

decided: June 14, 1973.


Appeal from judgment of Court of Common Pleas of Mercer County, March T., 1969, No. 189, in case of Martha S. Hamil, Administratrix of the Estate of Kenneth C. Hamil v. H. Woodrow Bashline et al., t/a The Bashline Hospital Association, Ltd.


Henry S. Moore, for appellant.

George Hardy Rowley, with him Voorhies, Dilley, Keck, Rowley & Wallace, for appellees.

Wright, P. J., Watkins, Jacobs, Hoffman, Spaulding, Cercone, and Packel, JJ. Opinion by Cercone, J. Jacobs, Hoffman, and Spaulding, JJ., concur in the result.

Author: Cercone

[ 224 Pa. Super. Page 408]

This case comes to us on appeal from a judgment entered in favor of the defendants and against the plaintiff on the trial judge's direction of a verdict for the defendants. Plaintiff, the administratrix of the estate of her deceased husband, brought this suit against defendants, trading as The Bashline Hospital Association, Ltd., for damages under the Wrongful Death Action and the Survival Action.

The facts established by the plaintiff at the trial are as follows: plaintiff called the Bashline Hospital around 11:40 p.m. on May 31, 1968, advising the night supervisor, Margaret Montgomery, that plaintiff's husband, the deceased, aged 41, was suffering from severe chest pains. Plaintiff was told by Mrs. Montgomery to bring him into the hospital, and that a doctor was there. The deceased was taken to the hospital at approximately 12:15 a.m. June 1, 1968. The doctor assigned to emergency duty was not there and could not be located. Doctor Johnston, one of the defendants, was present and although informed by the night supervisor of the deceased's condition did nothing more than order an EKG taken. The EKG machine did not function, apparently as a result of being plugged into a defective outlet. Its malfunction was confirmed by Dr. Johnston who ordered another machine be used and then he left the hospital. Another EKG machine was not located and the decedent, receiving no treatment, was then taken immediately by the plaintiff to the office of Dr. Saloom in Harrisville, Pennsylvania. A short time after his arrival and during the process of taking an EKG, the deceased died.

Dr. Saloom testified that the cause of death was myocardial infarction; that he came to this conclusion on the basis "of the history that the man presented; the symptoms that he had; the cardiograph tracings that I have." He testified that "any one in his age group, I

[ 224 Pa. Super. Page 409]

    mean the first thing I think of is cardiac problems and it could be a muscular problem also. . . . But the first thing I have to rule out is coronary." He stated that when Mr. Hamil arrived that night "he was restless and he was having pain" and was pale, and that "it would be impossible to put a point in time at when the heart attack actually occurred." He said: "It could have occurred when he first had pain, could have occurred at the hospital; any point here in time from the onset of pain. The pain actually occurred from the anoxia to the heart and you can have pain without having a complete occlusion of the vessel without necrosis to the tissue." And again Dr. Saloom testified: ". . . when I first saw Mr. Hamil, just looking at him and taking his blood pressure and listening to his heart, I was not convinced that he wasn't having a heart attack. But by the same token I wasn't convinced that he was having one." Dr. Saloom further testified that the fact that decedent's pulse rate was regular "didn't swing me either way" and the fact that decedent's blood pressure was then within normal limits "didn't help in the diagnosis" and meant nothing because "the blood pressure in some heart attacks will drop immediately; the patient may become in shock and all and in other cases it may remain normal for several hours or several days."

Dr. Cyril Wecht*fn1 testified as an expert in behalf of the plaintiff and gave his professional opinion as to the

[ 224 Pa. Super. Page 410]

    care that should have been afforded a patient who submits himself for care and treatment with the complaints made by the decedent: "In my opinion, he should have been immediately immobilized; that he should have been placed on a bed or a stretcher and kept there. He should have been seen immediately by a doctor; he should have had his pulse taken and his blood pressure read and a doctor should have listened to his chest with a stethoscope. He should have been given medication for pain, that is usually morphine or demerol with that kind of situation, something pretty strong. He might well have been given a sedative or a tranquilizer to further quiet him down and to allay his anxiety and apprehension because that's a very important element with somebody that has severe chest pains. And what you are considering, the very real possibility of a heart attack or an impending heart attack. An electrocardiogram should have been taken as quickly as possible; he should have been strapped with the electrodes and a tracing made so that they could see whether or not he was ...

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