Paul Lagnese and David Paul, of Berger & Lagnese, LLC presented a 2-hour CLE as part of the WPTLA (Western PA Trial Lawyers Association) Past President speaker series. The CLE was titled “RETTGER: The Long and Winding Road.”
The Rettger case stems all the way back to 2003 when Mr. Rettger was first transported from a hospital in West Virginia to a hospital in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. Michael Rettger, 24, was being treated at Cabell Huntington Hospital in Huntington, West Virginia when doctors found what they believed was a mass in his brain.
Rettger was transferred to UPMC Shadyside in Allegheny County on November 15, 2003. Working under the assumption that the brain mass was a slow growing tumor, he was scheduled to undergo surgery at 7:30 am on November 19, 2003. However, the mass was actually a fast growing infection. The night before the surgery his condition worsened into an emergency situation as the infection had grown such that it was damaging parts of his brain. Unfortunately due to a lack of communication by the UPMC nursing staff the emergency situation was responded to appropriately and Mr. Rettger died.
A lawsuit was filed against UPMC Shadyside on behalf of the Mr. Rettgers parents for the loss of their son which is known as a wrongful death case. There was also a claim for Mr. Rettger’s loss of earnings over his lifetime which is known as a survival action. The jury found UMPC responsible for Mr. Rettger’s death and awarded $2.5 million in the wrong death case and $0 in the survival action. An appeal was taken and the wrongful death award was upheld and a new trial was granted for the survival act claim. After the appeal UPMC paid $3.2 million on the wrongful death award plus the interest.
After a trial on the survival act damages the jury ordered UMPC to pay an additional $10 million in damages for Mr. Rettger’s lost earnings and benefits as an accountant. This was the largest jury award ever in a medical malpractice case in Allegheny County Pennsylvania.
After another unsuccessful appeal, UPMC paid 15.M on the survival claim jury award plus interest.
Paul Lagnese is a past President of the Western Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association (WPTLA) and the current president-elect of the Pennsylvania Association for Justice (PAJ).
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