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John Riley and Lisa Riley v. Medtronic

August 8, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Nora Barry Fischer



Pending before the Court is the Defendant‟s Motion to Dismiss. (Docket No. 29). Defendant contends that the Second Amended Complaint should be dismissed as Plaintiffs‟ claims are barred by the applicable two year statute of limitations, 42 Pa.C.S. § 5524(2). In addition, Defendant contends that Plaintiffs‟ claim for strict liability should be dismissed as it fails to state a claim under Pennsylvania law.

For the reasons outlined in the following Memorandum Opinion, Defendant‟s Motion to Dismiss is DENIED, without prejudice.


Plaintiffs John Riley and Lisa Riley (husband and wife), are adult individuals, currently residing in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. Defendant Medtronics, Inc., is a Minnesota corporation trading and doing business in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Plaintiffs are suing Defendant under Strict Liability and Negligent Manufacture and/or Design and are seeking damages, including loss of consortium, arising from the care and treatment of Plaintiff, Mr. Riley, which involved a guide wire and pacer box, manufactured by Defendant. This case is related to two civil actions now pending at docket numbers GD10-003566 and GD-10-010520 in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. (Docket No. 28 ¶ 1-3). It is important to note that Plaintiffs have indicated that they will be discontinuing all claims against Defendant regarding the guide wire, as during the deposition of treating physician, Dr. Kleist, he admitted that the guide wire malfunctioned due to his operator error. (Docket 39 pg. 3). As a result, this Opinion only addresses the pacer box or machine manufactured by Defendant.

On February 22, 2008, Mr. Riley, experienced a heart attack at his home and was admitted to Forbes Regional Hospital in Monroeville, Pennsylvania. (Docket No. 28 ¶ 5). Three days later, Mr. Riley was transferred to UPMC Shadyside for the purposes of a heart catheterization and angioplasty. (Docket No. 28 ¶ 6). At the time of his admission, his neurological assessment was within normal limits. (Docket No. 28 ¶ 7). On that same date, Mr. Riley underwent a percutaneous coronary angioplasty of the right coronary artery performed by Paul Kleist, M.D.. (Docket No. 28 ¶ 8). During the course of the performance of the angioplasty, Dr. Kleist utilized a Medtronic Zinger Light Guide Wire manufactured by Medtronic. (Docket No. 28 ¶ 9). The guide catheter became dislodged, resulting in a recoil of the wire in question. Id. During the course of the procedure, Mr. Riley experienced a dissection of the right coronary artery after balloon inflation. (Docket No. 28 ¶ 10). He then underwent emergency coronary artery bypass surgery on February 25, 2008. (Docket No. 28 ¶ 11).

On February 26, 2008, Mr. Riley, was extubated. (Docket No. 28 ¶ 12). Forty-five (45) minutes after the extubation, Mr. Riley experienced ventricular fibrillation and two pacer spikes from a certain pacing machine manufactured by Defendant. (Docket No. 28 ¶ 13). The pacer spike was triggered by one or more of three (3) causes which are currently under investigation:

a. A malfunction of the pacer machine manufactured by Defendant and utilized in the care of Mr. Riley;

b. A malfunction of a certain pacer wire utilized in the care and treatment of Mr. Riley; and/or

c. The misuse of said machinery and/or negligence of agents, representatives and/or employees of UPMC Presbyterian-Shadyside. Id.

Mr. Riley was reintubated and subsequently developed renal failure, a hypoxic insult, blindness, and other complications. (Docket No. 28 ¶ 14). Subsequent thereto, he also suffered pulmonary failure. (Docket No. 28 ¶ 15). He remained in UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside until March 18, 2008. (Docket No. 28 ¶ 16). His daily functioning and ability to comprehend the facts and circumstances regarding his treatment were significantly impaired for nearly one year. (Docket No. 28 ¶ 19). Mr. Riley continues to suffer significant injuries as a result of the pacer spike in question. (Docket No. 28 ¶ 17).

Plaintiffs, themselves, requested copies of Mr. Riley‟s medical records from UPMC. (Docket No. 28 ¶ 20). UPMC provided the electronic medical records, but not the actual handwritten records. Id. None of the records referenced or identified the pacer spike in question. Id. Mr. Riley and individuals on his behalf, continued to investigate his claim. (Docket No. 28 ¶ 21). Ultimately, Mr. Riley retained counsel on the eve of the expiration of the statute of limitations and litigation was then initiated against the medical providers in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County at GD-10-010410, captioned John Riley and Lisa Riley, his wife v. Medtronics, Inc., on February 24, 2010. (Docket No. 28 ¶ 22). Plaintiffs, through counsel, continued to request the full medical records to determine the cause of his injury. (Docket No. 28 ¶ 23). Said records were finally produced by UPMC on April 1, 2010 and contained a handwritten reference to the pacer spike. (Docket No. 28 ¶ 24). However, the actual cardiac strip showing the pacer spike was not produced. (Docket No. 28 ¶ 25). In addition, the medical records did not identify the manufacturers of the pacer wires or the pacer box. Id. The determination of the cause of the pacer spike could not occur until after receipt of the cardiac strip. Id.

Mr. Riley, through his counsel, continued to request this information from UPMC counsel, John Heisey. (Docket No. 28 ¶ 26). Plaintiffs next issued a Notice of Deposition directed to UPMC to obtain this information. (Docket No. 28 ¶ 27). UPMC refused to produce a representative. (Docket No. 28 ¶ 28). Accordingly, Plaintiffs threatened to file a Motion to Compel, but the parties agreed that a certain affidavit would be produced instead; and the Affidavit of Katie Kephart was issued. (Docket No. 28 ¶ 29). Said Affidavit identified the manufacturer of the pacer box as the Defendant. This was the first time that Plaintiffs discovered the manufacturer of the pacer box. (Docket No. 28 ¶ 30). Plaintiffs still could not identify the cause of the pacer spike and requested the opportunity to review the original medical records, by and through counsel. (Docket No. 28 ¶ 31). The original medical records were thus reviewed, but the actual pacer cardiac strips were not obtained until July 1, 2010. (Docket No. 28 ¶ 32).

As of the date of the filing of the Second Amended Complaint (February 15, 2011), Mr. Riley had not determined the cause of the pacer spike and indicated that said cause would not be known until after the depositions of UPMC personnel. (Docket No. 28 ¶ 33). Plaintiffs, therefore, continued their efforts to obtain information concerning the cause of the pacer spike. (Docket No. 28 ¶ 34). As such, Plaintiffs obtained a Court Order compelling UPMC to produce the pertinent information to complete their investigation of their claim. (Docket No. 28 ¶ 35). In addition, Plaintiffs obtained a Court Order compelling the deposition of Katie Kephart. Kephart‟s deposition was taken on February 14, 2011. (Docket No. 28 ¶ 36). According to the Second Amended Complaint, UPMC remains in violation of Court Orders in the underlying State Court action. (Docket No. 28 ¶ 37). Plaintiffs assert that they have been diligent in their attempts to obtain the information concerning the pacer box. (Docket No. 28 ¶ 38). Plaintiffs ...

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