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Hip Replacement Malpractice Lawsuit Results in $5M Verdict Over Wrongful Death

A Pennsylvania jury has awarded $5 million in damages in a wrongful death lawsuit filed against two doctors for failing to diagnose a serious respiratory problem during hip replacement surgery.

The verdict comes as a result of a medical malpractice lawsuit filed by the family of Thomas A. Natale, Jr., of New Castle, Pennsylvania, who died in October 2007, a month after he was admitted to an emergency room with a broken hip.

According to allegations raised at trial, Dr. Robert Piston and Dr. Emil Maurer failed to properly diagnose that Natale was also suffering from pulmonary failure and adult respiratory distress syndrome.

Natale was first admitted to Sharon Regional Health System’s emergency room on September 6, 2007, where it was determined that he had a broken hip. However, the next evening, before he was to undergo hip replacement surgery, he began to suffer from a fever and shortness of breath. The family indicated that a chest x-ray came back as abnormal, but Piston failed to review it. Additionally, at the time of surgery, a nurse noted that he complained of fever and nausea, but it does not appear either Maurer or Piston were informed.

Following the hip replacement, Natale’s health deteriorated rapidly, and he was transferred to a Pittsburgh hospital in critical condition. He died on October 8, due to pulmonary failure, as a result of complications from adult respiratory distress syndrome.

The family had previously reached a medical malpractice settlement with the hospital, but details of that out of court agreement have not been disclosed.

Last week, a Mercer County jury found in favor of the plaintiffs in the remaining claim against the doctors, ordering that the family be compensated $5,093,790. The jury determined that Piston was 60% responsible for Natale’s death, finding that Sharon Regional was 25% responsible, and that Maurer was 15% responsible.

According to a report by The Legal Intelligencer, the verdict is the largest award in the county for a medical malpractice lawsuit over wrongful death in at least two decades.

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