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Freedman v. Fisher

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

October 1, 2014

GARY FREEDMAN, Plaintiffs
v.
STEVEN FISHER, M.D., Defendants

MEMORANDUM

WILLIAM DITTER, Jr., District Judge.

Presently before me is a motion for summary judgment filed by defendants Manoj Muttreja, M.D., and Abington Medical Specialists Association, P.C., as to a wife's claim for the negligent infliction of emotional distress arising from the death of her husband. For the reasons that follow, I will grant the defendants' motion for summary judgment.[1]

This action involves the alleged failure of hospital doctors to properly diagnose and treat Abraham Strimber for a dissecting aorta[2] as a result of which he died.

Mr. Strimber presented to the emergency department at Abington Memorial Hospital with a series of chest and abdominal complaints at approximately 11:40 a.m. Within minutes Mr. Strimber was evaluated by an emergency department nurse and then assigned to a primary nurse. Both nurses documented his complaints, their examinations, and their observations of Mr. Strimber.

At 12:23 p.m., Mr. Strimber was examined by an emergency department physician, Steven Fisher, M.D., who made a differential diagnosis and ordered extensive laboratory tests. At 2:27 p.m., Dr. Fisher admitted Mr. Strimber to the hospital for further observation.

Margo Turner, M.D., who specializes in internal medicine, next observed, examined, and ordered further testing. She admitted Mr. Strimber to hospital care. Mr. Strimber was next seen by Dr. Muttreja, a cardiologist, at 6:30 p.m.

At 8:30 p.m., the floor nurse alerted Dr. Turner to a dangerous change in Mr. Strimber's cardiac condition. Shortly thereafter he was taken to the catheterization lab where testing revealed pericardial hemorrhage. Mr. Strimber rapidly deteriorated and despite a series of emergency measures, he died at 10:49 p.m.

In summary, despite extensive testing, observation by several nurses, and treatment by three physicians[3] over the course of approximately 11 hours, Mr. Strimber died.

In addition to suits on behalf of Mr. Strimber's estate and Mrs. Strimber's loss of consortium claim, Mrs. Strimber sues for the negligent infliction of emotional distress (NIED) as a consequence of observing her husband from the time he came to the hospital until he died.

I am granting a defense motion for summary judgment as to this last claim.

The consequential emotional distress law (NIED. Pennsylvania has developed as follows over the last several years:

1) although the plaintiff may not have suffered a physical injury, recovery is allowed when he or she was in close proximity to a traumatic event, typically an accident;
2) recovery is allowed if the plaintiff witnessed an accident that caused serious injury to a close family member; and
3) most recently, and still evolving, where a defendant owes the plaintiff a duty that arises from a ...

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