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Wentzel v. Cammarano

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

July 19, 2017

MAXAMOR WENTZEL, A MINOR, BY HIS PARENT AND NATURAL GUARDIAN CHARISMA WENTZEL, AND CHARISMA WENTZEL, IN HER OWN RIGHT
v.
DOMINIC CAMMARANO, III, D.O.; READING HEALTH PHYSICIAN NETWORK; READING OB/GYN, P.C., READING OB/GYN & WOMEN'S BIRTH CENTER, LLC; READING HOSPITAL; READING HEALTH SYSTEM; ALL ABOUT CHILDREN PEDIATRIC PARTNERS, P.C.; TENET HEALTH SYSTEM; ST.CHRISTOPHER'S HOSPITAL FOR CHILDREN, LLC; ST. CHRISTOPHER'S HOSPITAL FOR CHILDREN; HEART CENTER FOR CHILDREN AND ALLEGHENY INTEGRATED HEALTH GROUP APPEAL OF: CHARISMA WENTZEL, INDIVIDUALLY IN HER OWN RIGHT, AND AS PARENT AND NATURAL GUARDIAN OF MAXAMOR WENTZEL

         Appeal from the Order Entered March 24, 2016 In the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County Civil Division at No(s): No. 4185 August Term, 2015

          BEFORE: PANELLA, LAZARUS, JJ., and STEVENS, P.J.E. [*]

          OPINION

          STEVENS, P.J.E.

         Maximor Wentzel ("Maximor"), a minor, by his parent and natural guardian, Charisma Wentzel, and Charisma Wentzel in her own right ("Appellants"), appeal from the order entered in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County sustaining preliminary objections to venue and transferring the action to Berks County. We vacate the order and remand for proceedings consistent with this decision.

         This medical malpractice action arises from, inter alia, the allegedly negligent failure of Philadelphia's St. Christopher's Hospital ("SCHC") and its resident cardiologist Dr. Lindsay Rogers to timely transmit her diagnosis and treatment plan for Maximor based on her reading of an emergency transthoracic echocardiogram performed on the premature newborn, who was receiving neonatal intensive care at Reading Hospital, Berks County. Dr. Rogers' diagnosis was pulmonary hypertension requiring immediate treatment or intervention, which she recommended SCHC should provide.

         Appellants alleged in their complaint that the resultant one-day delay in putting Dr. Rogers' treatment plan into effect amounted to the negligent provision of health care services causing harm to Maximor. The trial court, however, sustained Appellees' preliminary objections to venue in Philadelphia County and transferred the matter to Berks County, as it rejected Appellants' argument that transmission of Dr. Rogers' impressions, diagnoses, and treatment plan for immediate transfer to SCHC constituted the furnishing of "health care services" as defined under both the MCARE Act[1] and Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure implementing such legislation. Instead, the court agreed with Appellees' position that Appellants' complaint was predicated on an allegation of mere clerical error falling outside the ambit of such controlling authority.

         The trial court aptly provides a more detailed account of the case history pertinent to the issue before us:

This matter was instituted by Complaint on September 1, 2015. [Appellants] brought this medical professional liability action against [Appellees], alleging professional liability claims against all Appellees, as well as direct corporate negligence claims as to the Reading facilities and St. Christopher's.
Appellant, Christina Wentzel, underwent prenatal care with Dr. Cammarano and the Reading Appellees. See, Complaint at ¶ 28. Appellant's obstetrical history of having a prior child with Intrauterine Growth [Restriction] ("IUGR") and prior pre-term delivery at 32 weeks with low amniotic fluid was disclosed at the start of Appellant's treatment. ¶ 29. Appellant's initial prenatal appointment of May 9, 2013, noted Ms. Wentzel to be 17 5/7 weeks gestation per her last menstrual cycle. Appellant was given an estimated due date of October 12, 2013. ¶ 31.
Appellee, Cammarano, performed a prenatal ultrasound at 20 6/7 weeks gestation (based upon Appellant's last menstrual period) which noted normal amniotic fluid and a calculated gestational age of 18 5/7 weeks. ¶ 33. No change was made to note the difference in Appellant's gestational age. ¶ 35. Dr. Cammarano performed prenatal ultrasounds again in July, 2013 and August, 2013. Each visit indicated a difference in her gestational age. ¶ 36-37. Appellant's next prenatal ultrasound on September 10, 2013, indicated a decreased amniotic fluid level, the fetus was in the breech position, and oligohydramnios was diagnosed. ¶ 40. Appellant was admitted to Reading Hospital for an emergency caesarean section delivery. ¶ 43.
Shortly after birth on September 10, 2013, the child was transferred to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit ("NICU"). ¶ 48. The child continued to suffer from serious respiratory distress requiring intubation and ventilation treatment. ¶ 49-54.
On September 12, 2013, a transthoracic echocardiogram was performed at Reading Hospital at approximately 12:41 p.m. ¶ 56. The echocardiogram report was sent to Appellee, St. Christopher's for interpretation. ¶ 57. The report was interpreted and signed by Dr. Lindsay Rogers at St. Christopher's. The report was signed at 5:39 p.m. On September 12, 2013. ¶ 59. The report indicated pulmonary hypertension and tricuspid valve insufficiency requiring immediate treatment. ¶ 60.
The report was transmitted back to Reading Hospital from St. Christopher's on September 13, 2013, at 8:40 p.m. ¶ 62. At this point, the child had persistent pulmonary hypertension, and began receiving advanced respiratory treatments.
On September 14, 2013, the child was transported from Reading Hospital to St. Christopher's with [ ] final diagno[ses] of persistent pulmonary hypertension of newborn, respiratory distress [syndrome] and preterm infant. St. Christopher's noted the child to be symmetrically small for gestational age with feeding difficulties. ¶¶ 71, 73.
The child was transferred from St. Christopher's back to Reading Hospital on October 7, 2013, where he remained until November 18, 2013. ¶76. During this time, the child was noted to have serious respiratory issues, feeding difficulties, gastroesophageal reflux and failure to thrive. The child was again transferred from Reading Hospital to St. Christopher's on November 18, 2013. ¶¶ 77-78.
During the child's second admission to St. Christopher's, a CT scan revealed an old, healing rib fracture first seen on November 15, 2013, while the child was a patient at Reading Hospital. ¶ 80. Appellants allege the fracture could have occurred at Reading Hospital during the September 10 - September 14, 2013, stay; St. Christopher's during the September 14 - October 7, 2013, stay; or at Reading Hospital during the October 7 - November 18, 2013, stay. ¶ 81. The child was then transferred to Hershey Medical Center (not a party to this action) where he remained until May 13, 2014. ¶82.
The Reading Appellees filed Preliminary Objections to Appellants' Complaint raising, inter alia, improper venue pursuant to Pa.R.C.P. 1006(a.1).[] Specifically, Appellees argued the Appellants failed to raise any allegations of professional negligence stemming from medical care furnished to the child in Philadelphia County while at St. Christopher's. [The trial court] scheduled an argument and evidentiary hearing regarding the objection to venue, after which the Preliminary Objections were sustained, and this matter was transferred to Berks County. This appeal followed.

Trial Court Opinion, filed 8/18/16, at 1-4.

         Appellant appealed and presents the following ...


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