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Philadelphia Jury Awards $6.6 Million Verdict to Recovered Heroin Addict for Medical Negligence that Resulted in Paraplegia

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Philadelphia Jury Awards $6.6 Million Verdict to Recovered Heroin Addict for Medical Negligence that Resulted in Paraplegia

PHILADELPHIA, PA – March 13, 2015

On Wednesday, a Philadelphia jury awarded $6.6 million in damages to a Philadelphia man who became permanently paralyzed in 2010 as a result of severely negligent medical treatment at Jeanes Hospital.

The plaintiff, Harry Walker, presented to the Emergency Department at Jeanes Hospital in November 2010 seeking treatment for severe back pain and a heroin addiction. Importantly, he presented with a fever and nausea; together, glaring signs of infection. The emergency department staff administered narcotic pain medication and ran tests that included an EKG, X-rays, and blood work. Before the test results were completed, Mr. Walker was discharged with a diagnosis of exacerbated back pain and narcotic withdrawal and a prescription for more narcotics. After his discharge, Jeanes Hospital became aware, via blood cultures, that Mr. Walker had a systemic blood infection. One unanswered phone call was the only attempt the hospital made to contact Mr. Walker before they sent a certified letter to the address on file. The letter didn’t even have time to arrive before Mr. Walker woke up in his bed, paralyzed from the chest down.

Jeanes Hospital defended their actions by placing responsibility for Mr. Walker’s paraplegia on Mr. Walker himself, claiming that his substance abuse was the cause of his unfortunate circumstance and that the emergency department acted in line with general standards of care in sending a narcotics addict home with more narcotics and an incomplete diagnosis. The Hospital even went so far as to bring in a physician to testify that Mr. Walker’s struggles with substance abuse and other problems significantly shortened his life expectancy in an effort to minimize his damages.

Ultimately, a jury found defendant Dr. Dana Mark Weber not liable for Mr. Walker’s injuries, while finding defendant Jeanes Hospital 64% liable. The remaining 36% was handed to the plaintiff, Harry Walker. The jury believed that while Mr. Walker’s actions played a role in the development of the epidural abscess and blood infection, the ultimate responsibility to treat those conditions fell on those who take a specific oath to do so.

The case was tried before The Honorable Jacqueline F. Allen in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. Attorney Eric H. Weitz of Messa & Associates, P.C. represented the plaintiff against defense attorney Ira W. Bushman of Dolchin, Slotkin, & Todd, P.C. The trial lasted 7 days, two of those days used for jury deliberations.

Eric H. Weitz is a board member of a number of professional and community organizations including the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority, the Philadelphia Trial Lawyers Association (PTLA) and the Pennsylvania Association for Justice (PAJ) where Mr. Weitz serves on its Executive Committee. He is also an active member of the American Trial Lawyers Association in New Jersey. Mr. Weitz has been named to the Pennsylvania Super Lawyers list by Thomson Reuters and Philadelphia Magazine for eight consecutive years, including Top 100 Pennsylvania and Top 100 Philadelphia for 2011- 2014.

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Messa & Associates, P.C. represents individuals and their families in complex personal injury matters, including catastrophic injury, medical malpractice, product liability, motor vehicle accidents, fires and explosions. Our attorneys serve Pennsylvania clients throughout the state, including in Philadelphia and other surrounding communities in Montgomery County, Chester County, Delaware County, and Bucks County. Messa & Associates are also proud to serve New Jersey clients throughout that state, and also litigate selected cases throughout the country.

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