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Gallo v. Conemaugh Health Sys., Inc.

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

April 17, 2015

MARGARET J. GALLO, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS ADMINISTRATRIX DBN CTA OF THE ESTATE OF JOSEPH J. GALLO, SR.,
v.
CONEMAUGH HEALTH SYSTEM, INC., CONEMAUGH VALLEY MEMORIAL HOSPITAL, CONEMAUGH VALLEY MEMORIAL HOSPITAL, D/B/A MEMORIAL MEDICAL CENTER, CONEMAUGH HEALTH INITIATIVES, INC., CONEMAUGH HEALTH INITIATIVES, INC., D/B/A/ CONEMAUGH PHYSICIAN GROUP, LAUREL GROUP ANESTHESIA, P.C., ASHOK PADHIAR, M.D., RANDY JOHNSON, CRNA, CONEMAUGH HEALTH INITIATIVES, INC., D/B/A/ CONEMAUGH VALLEY SURGEONS, RUSSELL DUMIRE, M.D., AND HANNA KIM, D.O. APPEAL OF: ASHOK PADHIAR, M.D

Argued January 28, 2015

Page 856

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 857

Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas, Cambria County, Entered June 16, 2014, Civil Division, No(s): 2011-02862. Before KINIRY, J.

John W. Jordan, IV, Pittsburgh, for appellant.

Michael A. Murphy, Pittsburgh, for Gallo, appellee.

BEFORE: BOWES, OLSON, and STRASSBURGER,[*] JJ.

OPINION

Page 858

STRASSBURGER, J.:

Ashok Padhiar, M.D. (Dr. Padhiar) appeals from the order entered June 16, 2014, which granted the motion to compel discovery filed by Appellee Margaret J. Gallo (Gallo). After review, we reverse and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

The trial court aptly summarized the relevant factual and procedural history of this case as follows.

On December 27, 2009, at 2:00 p.m., Joseph J. Gallo (" Mr. Gallo" ) entered Conemaugh Valley Memorial Hospital's Emergency Room. Mr. Gallo complained of an odorous, blackened " second toe on his right foot" that was discharging pus. Paul Rollins M.D. (" Dr. Rollins" ) was treating Mr. Gallo for gangrene on the same toe and had scheduled previously a January 2, 2010 amputation of it. Mr. Gallo, however, admitted himself to the Emergency Room to see if an earlier amputation was possible. Because of the unexpected Emergency Room visit, Dr. Rollins was unavailable and Russell Dumire, M.D. (" Dr. Dumire" ) assumed care. After Dr. Dumire examined Mr. Gallo, he agreed to perform the more immediate amputation the next day -- December 28, 2009.
[Dr. Padhiar] performed the " pre-surgical anesthesia consult evaluation." [Dr. Padhiar's] performing the evaluation is notable because he had an alcohol addiction. He was arrested at least eight times for driving under the influence (" DUI" ) in Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, including once in November 2009 -- one month before Mr. Gallo's unexpected surgery. Because of this addiction and its subsequent consequences,

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at least one state revoked his medical license. At the time, though, Pennsylvania had not.
In light of [Dr. Padhiar's] alcohol history and despite Mr. Gallo being 81 years old and having a history of both " cardiovascular and pulmonary medical conditions," [Dr. Padhiar] never " conduct[ed] a physical examination," a cardiac evaluation, a pulmonary assessment, a chest x-ray, or an electrocardiogram test in his pre-surgical evaluation. Furthermore, despite " Mr. Gallo's pre-induction vital signs show[ing] that he was hypotensive[] with a blood pressure of 78/34" no action was taken by either [Dr. Padhiar] or any of the hospital's medical staff " to raise [Mr.] Gallo's blood pressure." On the contrary, [Dr. Padhiar] and the medical staff proceeded as normal by administering general anesthesia. Accordingly, on December 28, 2009, Dr. Dumire performed the toe amputation with [Dr. Padhiar] assisting as the anesthesiologist.
" Some time during or immediately after the [amputation, Mr.] Gallo suffered a cardiac arrest." The medical staff initiated CPR, gave [Mr.] Gallo epinephrine and atropine, and transferred him " to the Intensive Care Unit." For three months, [Mr.] Gallo remained in the Intensive Care Unit unresponsive until he died on March 12, 2010. A " neurological evaluation revealed that Mr. Gallo suffered from anoxic encephalopathy[, brain damage due to lack of oxygen].
On October 5, 2011, [Gallo] filed a Complaint both individually and as Administratrix of Mr. Gallo's Estate [] against [the above-captioned defendants]. The counts against these ... defendants consisted of both Wrongful Death and Survival Actions. Of particular note here are the allegations against [Dr. Padhiar]. In sum, Gallo argues alcohol impaired [Dr. Padhiar] at the time of Mr. Gallo's surgery and therefore [Dr. Padhiar's] actions and omissions ultimately caused Mr. Gallo " to suffer a cardiac arrest" that " result[ed] in his death."
On December 23, 2013, Gallo filed a Motion to Compel [Dr. Padhiar] to provide [Gallo] with more specific responses to [Gallo's] discovery requests. Two weeks later, on January 7, 2014, the [trial c]ourt granted Gallo's requests. On January 30, 2014, [Dr. Padhiar] filed a Motion for Reconsideration. Shortly after that, on February 6, 2014, the [trial c]ourt vacated its January 7th Order and scheduled a February 12th Hearing to address the privilege issues. The Hearing occurred as scheduled and the [trial c]ourt requested both parties submit briefs.
On February 26, 2014, [Dr. Padhiar] submitted his Brief-in-Opposition; and, on March 10, 2014, Gallo submitted hers. In Gallo's brief she narrowed the " drug and alcohol treatment records" to the records [Dr. Padhiar]:
1. Revealed to the Pennsylvania medical license board to obtain his Pennsylvania license;
2. Released to Conemaugh in 2006 to obtain employment and credentials there;
3. Disclosed to the Pennsylvania medical license board to " maintain his [Pennsylvania] medical license; " and
4. Divulged to the Cambria County Court of Common Pleas to lessen his criminal sentence for his 2010 ...

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