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RIDDLE MEMORIAL HOSPITAL v. EVELENE DOHAN (05/24/84)

decided: May 24, 1984.

RIDDLE MEMORIAL HOSPITAL, APPELLANT,
v.
EVELENE DOHAN, EXECUTRIX OF THE ESTATE OF DAVID DOHAN, DECEASED, APPELLEE, AND DR. C. STEPHEN STAHLNECKER. APPEAL OF RIDDLE MEMORIAL HOSPITAL



No. 129 E.D. Appeal Docket 1983, Appeal from the judgment and Order of the Superior Court at No. 2349 Philadelphia, 1980, reversing the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County at No. 9919 of 1971, Pa. Super. , Nix, C.j., and Larsen, Flaherty, McDermott, Hutchinson, Zappala and Papadakos, JJ. Larsen, J., filed a dissenting opinion in which Nix, C.j., and Papadakos, J., joined.

Author: Zappala

[ 504 Pa. Page 573]

Opinion

Early on the morning of September 22, 1970, David Dohan, deceased husband of the Appellee Evelene Dohan, awoke complaining of pains in his arms. Shortly thereafter, Dohan complained of other symptoms which appeared to

[ 504 Pa. Page 574]

    him to indicate a heart attack. Upon Dohan's request, the Appellee contacted the family physician, Dr. C. Stephen Stahlnecker, who agreed to come immediately. When Dr. Stahlnecker had not arrived at the Dohan residence within a half hour, the Appellee contacted the Concordville Fire and Protective Association to have her husband taken to Riddle Memorial Hospital (Riddle). Riddle was a few miles from the Dohan residence. The Appellee thereafter advised Dr. Stahlnecker that she was taking her husband to Riddle. Dr. Stahlnecker then advised Riddle that Mr. Dohan, who was complaining of chest pains, would be coming to its emergency room. Dr. Stahlnecker was not on the staff at Riddle, but did have staff privileges at another community hospital, Lankenau Hospital. Mr. Dohan arrived at Riddle at 7:40 a.m., preceded by Dr. Stahlnecker by one or two moments. Mr. Dohan was taken to the emergency room which was staffed by a registered nurse, a practical nurse, a resident physician with a subspecialty in cardiology and an EKG technician.

In the emergency room, Dr. Stahlnecker examined Mr. Dohan and ordered an EKG. Both Dr. Stahlnecker and the resident assistant read the EKG, which confirmed that Mr. Dohan had in fact suffered a heart attack. Mr. Dohan also received an injection of Demerol from an emergency room nurse. After determining that Mr. Dohan had a coronary occlusion, Dr. Stahlnecker advised Appellee and her husband that Mr. Dohan be admitted to the coronary unit of Lankenau Hospital.

At approximately 8:00 a.m. the same Concordville Fire and Protective Association staff removed Mr. Dohan from Riddle's emergency room into an ambulance for transfer to Lankenau Hospital. This was done in full view of Riddle's emergency room staff and without objection. Furthermore, this transfer occurred even though the resident in the emergency room did not execute a signed approval as is required by Riddle's by-laws. While en route from Riddle to Lankenau Hospital, Mr. Dohan died.

As the result of Mr. Dohan's death, an action for wrongful death and survival was initiated against Riddle, Dr.

[ 504 Pa. Page 575]

Stahlnecker and the Concordville Fire and Protective Association.*fn1 Prior to the trial, Dr. Stahlnecker and the Appellee entered into a settlement, but this was properly not revealed to the jury by the trial court. Trial commenced against Riddle and Dr. Stahlnecker as if he had not entered into the settlement. The jury returned a verdict for both defendants. The Appellee's motion for new trial was denied. An appeal was taken to the Superior Court, 313 Pa. Super. 279, 459 A.2d 1228 (Cercone, P.J., Brosky, J.; Wickersham, J. dissenting) which reversed the trial court and granted a new trial. We thereafter granted the petition for allocatur.

Before the Superior Court, the Appellee successfully argued that the trial court erred in its instructions to the jury regarding the duty of care owed by Riddle to Mr. Dohan. In particular, the Superior Court found error in the following instruction of the trial court:

Now, even if you find that the attending physician remained in charge of the decedent David Dohan, Riddle Hospital, nevertheless, remained responsible for those services or acts which according to good medical practice it should have performed.

Now, once a person is brought to a hospital emergency room and that person is accepted for care and treatment, the hospital must not act unreasonably in allowing a person to be removed from the premises. The law requires that such patient be kept at the hospital and not transferred or removed if it is foreseeable that his ...


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