A York County jury last Friday awarded $6 million to estate and family of a deceased Seven Valleys woman in a medical malpractice lawsuit against York Hospital and Cardiac Diagnostic Associates in York Township.
But an appeal is likely forthcoming, as both entities said they're surprised by the amount of the jury's award.
The suit centers around the care Sherrie Ann Burkhardt, 53, received in one of the hospital's intensive care units on Dec. 17 and 18, 2007, before she died of internal bleeding on Dec. 19, 2007.
Burkhardt was taken to the hospital's emergency department by ambulance on Dec. 17, complaining of three days of radiating chest pains.
Tests showed she had suffered a heart attack, and a surgeon successfully performed a catheterization and determined there was a 99 percent blockage in one of her coronary arteries. The same cardiologist then also opened the blockage with a balloon and placed three stents to keep the artery open, according to court documents.
But the jury said the care Burkhardt received after the surgery included negligence from the hospital's third-year chief resident, Dr. Daniel Motter, and on-call cardiologist Dr. John Bobin from Cardiac Diagnostic Associates. Bobin is also director of the coronary care unit and director of cardiology inpatient services at York Hospital.
What happened? After the surgery, at 8:48 p.m. on Dec. 17, Burkhardt was stable with a blood pressure of 123/90 and a heart rate of 110, within normal ranges, the suit claims.
But about an hour later, her pulse had quickened to 128 and her blood pressure dropped to 65/46, well below the 120/80 considered normal. Contrary to hospital orders, the cardiologist who performed the surgery wasn't notified despite the low blood pressure and rapid pulse, the suit claims. And though there were other symptoms suggesting possible internal bleeding, no tests were ordered, the suit claims.
At issue was whether Motter, who was bedside, and Bobin, who was on-call, were harmful and negligent for not ordering tests.
But there's a factual dispute between the two doctors about what they discussed during Motter's phone call the night of Dec. 17.
Bobin disagrees with Motter's testimony that Motter told the more senior doctor that he was concerned, and that the two discussed the possibility of internal bleeding. Bobin testified he would have immediately ordered tests if Motter had told him all of the symptoms, court records show.
"At times during their testimony, it looked as though the two were blaming each other," said Jaime Jackson, the Lancaster-based attorney who represented Burkhardt's family and estate.
He said the jury's verdict ultimately decided it didn't matter whose recollection of the phone call was more accurate; both were negligent for not ordering the tests.
Though the bleeding was eventually discovered and surgically repaired, the suit contends Burkhardt wouldn't have died if the problem had been addressed earlier.
The verdict: In their verdict, jurors said Bobin was harmful for not ordering tests during the Dec. 17 phone call, and Motter caused harm during his bedside treatment.
The jury said York Hospital was 75 percent at fault, while Cardiac Diagnostic Associates is 25 percent to blame. The financial split of the $6 million would be paid in a corresponding manner.
Pending a successful appeal, the money will be paid to Burkhardt's family. She had three adult children; her husband of 33 years, Jerry Burkhardt, is a welder.
Reached through Jackson, Jerry Burkhardt issued a statement saying his family is very thankful to the justice system, the court and the jury.
"We are thankful for our day in court, and that this whole ordeal has some closure," he said. "We are very appreciative of the jury for their service and willingness to help protect the York County community, so that hopefully something like this will never happen again, or to anyone else. We all love and miss Sherrie very much."
Cardiac Diagnostic Associates, in a statement issued by Camp Hill-based attorney Leigh Ellis, said doctors empathize with the Burkhardt family for their loss. Ellis said Sherrie Burkhardt had a very serious heart attack and, sadly, did not survive.
"Cardiac Diagnostic Associates is surprised and disappointed by the verdict against it and does not believe that the verdict was supported by the evidence," he said.
Ellis said post-trial motions are being filed with respect to the verdict and the amount awarded, and an appeal is likely.
York Hospital spokesman Barry Sparks said the hospital extends its sympathy to the family "in this unfortunate case."
"York Hospital, however, is surprised by the excessive amount of the jury's award," he said.
When asked whether an appeal is forthcoming, Sparks said hospital officials are still "trying to sort through things."
- Reach Christina Kauffman at firstname.lastname@example.org.