Albert's Case

Albert was a married man in his sixties with a history of heart problems. With the help of an implanted cardiac device, he continued to enjoy working as a federal employee in Philadelphia. He even swam regularly and occasionally played tennis.

In 1999, he experienced electrical shocks in his chest. He went to visit his doctor immediately and his doctor sent him to a hospital emergency room. At the hospital they realized that the cardiac device was causing problems and a specialist was brought in to determine the nature of the problem. The specialist recognized that the device no longer functioned properly. He made an appointment for Albert to enter the hospital the next day for a surgical procedure to remove it and install a new one. If all went well, Albert would be in and out of the hospital in 24 hours. Naturally, no one could guarantee the outcome, but Albert thought he had every reason to believe that the hospital and its staff were caring and competent. The surgery did not go well. Even though the doctor was very experienced, his hand slipped during the procedure and the surgical knife went through the abdominal cavity underneath the cardiac device. The knife cut open part of Albert's intestine but the doctor did not realize at the time what had happened. He completed the procedure, sewed his patient up and sent him on to recovery. What happened after that was a nightmare for Albert. Little by little he began to develop the symptoms of peritonitis. At first, hospital staff did not recognize the symptoms. As his pain grew worse, however, they eventually figured out that Albert was probably infected and would need additional surgery. A second doctor opened Albert up and closed the intestine that had been cut open inadvertently. The new surgery involved a long incision in Albert's torso. Then he had to recover from that procedure as well and he remained in the hospital for many additional days. Albert was finally discharged from the hospital to go home. At the time of his release, however, the site of the new surgery was infected. It required daily changes of dressings and treatment. At home he had to stay in bed while he recovered and grew stronger. Eventually, he was well enough to return to work. The only lingering problem was a long ugly scar on his torso. Albert's problems did not end with his medical recovery. He had trouble finding a lawyer to bring suit for medical malpractice. While a few attorneys told him he probably had a legitimate case, the difficulty in taking on such a case was compounded by the fact that Albert's pain and suffering would not continue for the rest of his life. He was able to go back to work after a relatively short period of time. Albert and his wife met with attorney Michael Bomstein to discuss possible suit. Bomstein advised him that he would first have to obtain the hospital records and review them with a medical consultant. There was no fee for that investigation. Bomstein then met with Albert and his wife again. He explained that it would be a difficult suit and that, if there were a verdict or settlement, it was not going to be huge. Nonetheless, attorney and client both felt that it would be worth their time and effort. Almost three years later, after a great deal of preparation, the case finally was called for trial. A jury was selected and the first witness testified. Counsel then met again to talk about the possibilities for settlement. The doctor made a substantial increase in his offer. A few hours later, the case settled for an amount that was in the range that attorney and client had hoped to achieve.