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$10 Million Verdict in Medical Malpractice Case against UPMC Upheld

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported today that the Superior Court of Pennsylvania upheld a $10 million jury verdict against UPMC Shadyside in Pittsburgh, PA. This is the largest ever recorded medical malpractice verdict in Pittsburgh, PA.  The law firm of Berger & Lagnese were the lawyers who obtained this jury verdict.  This case arises out of the death of Mike Rettger, a young and talented accountant at a Big 3 accounting firm.  Mike was on an accounting assignment in West Virginia when he got a very severe headache and then went to a local ER.  A CT scan (CAT scan) of Mike's head showed a mass which was either a brain abscess or a brain tumor.  Mike was transferred to UPMC Shadyside Hospital and scheduled for surgery the next morning.  On the night before surgery, while in UPMC Shadyside Hospital, Mike developed a "fixed and dilated pupil" in his left eye.  This is the sign of increased pressure in the brain and impending serious brain injury, if left untreated.  Mike's nurse made a phone call to the surgeon to inform him.  The surgeon testified at trial that the nurse did not tell him that Mike had a "fixed and dilated pupil".  So, the surgeon did not come to the Hospital immediately to treat Mike.  Mike's nurse knew the surgeon wasn't going to come in until the next morning, yet she took no action to get the immediate critical care that Mike needed.  By the time the surgeon arrived the next morning, Mike had suffered serious injury to his brain and he subsequently died as a result.  A very tragic case.  The lawyers of Berger & Lagnese brought a medical malpractice case on behalf of Mike Rettger's family against UPMC.  That case went to trial in 2008 and the jury found that UPMC was careless and negligent in its treatment of Mike, and that their negligence caused Mike's death.   The jury's verdict against UPMC in that trial was $2.5 million.  That verdict was attributable to the wrongful death of Mike Rettger.  An additional trial was scheduled to determine the amount of damages attributable to the loss of earnings resulting from Mike's death.  In 2012 the jury reached a verdict of $10 million against UPMC.  UPMC appealed that verdict.  Yesterday, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania upheld the jury's verdict.  With interest accruing on that verdict, the total amount is now approximately $14.2 million.  UPMC wanted to argue at the second trial that Mike would have died or had permanent brain injury even if he had been treated as he should have been.  Judge Bowes rejected UPMC's argument, stating in her opinion that "the hospital having espoused at the first trial that Mr. Rettger was neurologically intact at 1 a.m. and having offered expert testimony in support of that proposition, is bound by that admisssion".   Judge Bowes called it a "thinly veiled attempt to relitigate liability".