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STEPHEN BRANNAN v. LANKENAU HOSPITAL (07/03/80)

decided: July 3, 1980.

STEPHEN BRANNAN, APPELLANT,
v.
LANKENAU HOSPITAL, HUNTER S. NEAL, M.D., EUGENE B. REX, M.D., CLIFTON F. WEST, JR., M.D.



No. 345 January Term, 1978, Appeal from Judgment of Superior Court of April 23, 1978 at No. 1437 October Term, 1976 affirming Judgment entered August 30, 1976 of the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County, Civil Action, at No. 67-11202

COUNSEL

Joseph D. Shein, Philadelphia, for appellant.

Ralph L. Hose, A. Grant Sprecher, Philadelphia, John C. Bonner, Norristown, for appellees.

Eagen, C. J., and O'Brien, Roberts, Nix, Larsen, Flaherty and Kauffman, JJ.

Author: Roberts

[ 490 Pa. Page 591]

OPINION OF THE COURT

In this malpractice action, appellant Stephan Brannan seeks to recover from appellees, Lankenau Hospital and Drs. Eugene Rex and Clifton West, Jr. We are asked to review the trial court's removal from the jury's consideration questions of whether appellees Drs. Rex and West negligently treated appellant's infection and also whether appellee Lankenau Hospital is liable for its intensive care unit staff's failure properly to monitor appellant's condition. Review of this record discloses that appellant presented sufficient evidence to warrant submission of these issues to the jury. Accordingly, we reverse the order of the Superior Court, 254 Pa. Super. 352, 385 A.2d 1376, affirming the trial court's denial of appellant's motions to remove the nonsuits.

[ 490 Pa. Page 592]

On Saturday evening, August 28, 1965, appellant attended a wedding reception at the William Penn Civic Club in Philadelphia. Soon after arriving at the club, he obtained a roast beef sandwich and a glass of beer. His first bite of the thickly sliced beef sandwich became lodged deep in his throat, blocking the throat passage. He immediately attempted to remove the obstruction, but was unsuccessful. Appellant left the reception and went home. There he drank fluids, but still he could not remove the blockage.

After a sleepless night, appellant went to the emergency room at Lankenau Hospital. There, appellee Dr. Rex, ordered x-rays, examined appellant, and recommended surgery for removal of the impacted piece of meat. Appellant initially refused surgery, preferring to await the natural passage of the beef. After Dr. Rex informed appellant that the procedure typically involved only an overnight hospital stay, appellant agreed to the operation.

At approximately 4:00 p. m. on August 29, Dr. Rex performed an esophagoscopy on appellant to relieve the blockage. During the surgical procedure, Dr. Rex removed several small portions of meat, eventually reducing the size of the portion to allow its passage into appellant's stomach. The surgery, however, was imperfect. Dr. Rex's operative notes reflect that a screw on the forward grasping forceps broke while inside appellant's esophagus. As a result, the forceps opened suddenly and its narrow, pointed ends touched the walls of the esophagus. Dr. Rex made a visual inspection of the esophageal wall in search of possible perforations. At that time, however, the doctor found no evidence of perforation.

Appellant was taken from the operating theatre and placed in the recovery room. Shortly after appellant awoke from the anesthesia, he suffered abdominal cramps. By 8:00 p. m., appellant's body temperature had increased to 100.4 degrees. Hospital employees promptly notified Dr. Rex of this change in appellant's condition. Dr. Rex in turn requested that appellee Dr. West, ...


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