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$1.2 Mil. Verdict Returned in Death of Equestrian

A Chester County jury has awarded $1.2 million to the family of a 26-year-old equestrian who died of septic shock after she lay in a hospital emergency room for several hours without a doctor checking on her.

The parents of Emily Rawle had accused two doctors at Jennersville Regional Hospital, formerly known as the Southern Chester County Medical Center, of negligence, saying they should have treated their daughter promptly when she was taken to the emergency room in May 1999, court documents said.

Twelve jurors returned the verdict last Thursday after deliberating for 10-and-a-half hours over two days, said the Rawles’ attorney, Rodger L. Mutzel of Mutzel & Wesner in Media.

Mutzel tried the case with his co-counsel, Thomas J. O’Malley Jr. of the Law Offices of Thomas J. O’Malley in Media.

Ten of the 12 jurors found the doctors, Earl R. Brown and David M. Callahan, equally liable, Mutzel said.

Common Pleas Judge Edward Griffith presided over the two-week trial.

Rawle was taken to the emergency room, suffering from vomiting, diarrhea and a racing heart, Mutzel said.

The plaintiffs’ experts, Jason D. Christie and Judd E. Hollander of the University of Pennsylvania, testified that the ER staff should have treated Rawle’s symptoms and worked to stabilize her condition and then transferred her to the intensive-care unit, Mutzel said.

It was not established what caused Rawle’s illness, but the death certificate listed the cause of death as septic shock caused by sepsis, or an infection of the blood, Mutzel said.

By 9:25 a.m. May 17, 1999, Brown and Callahan had initially evaluated Rawle, finding her critically ill and saying she needed to be admitted to the hospital. After that, she “received no further physician assessments, and at 12:03 p.m. suffered a ‘prolonged’ cardiac arrest” and never regained consciousness, the plaintiffs’ pretrial memorandum said.

Rawle died about a week later, according to the memorandum.

At trial, the defense argued that each doctor believed the other had assumed responsibility for Rawle’s care, Mutzel said.

The critical-care physician, Callahan, was represented by Suzanne Bachovin of German Gallagher & Murtagh. Brown, the ER doctor, was represented by Alexander Ferrante of Monaghan Ferrante & Fortin. Neither could be reached for comment yesterday.

The defense expert was James R. Roberts, an expert in ER medicine and toxicology with Mercy Hospital in Philadelphia.

In arguing for damages, Mutzel said he tried to estimate what Rawle’s earnings would be had she gone on to train, compete and work as a show equestrian.

Mutzel said Rawle had hoped to compete in the Olympics in the dressage division, which involves a rider’s maneuvering a horse through slight movements using their hands, legs and body weight.

- Melissa Nann

Moss Fills Vacancy on Municipal Court

Bradley K. Moss, whose nomination to the Philadelphia Municipal Court was unanimously confirmed by the state Senate last month, has taken his seat on the court.

Moss, a Republican, was nominated by Gov. Edward G. Rendell on Dec. 31.

President Judge Louis J. Presenza said Moss fills one of two vacancies on the court.

Judge Seamus P. McCaffery, who had served as the court’s administrative judge, was elected to the Superior Court in November, leaving one open seat. In December, Judge Louis G.F. Retacco died, leaving a second seat on the municipal court.

Moss said he is rotating to different courtrooms, hearing both civil and criminal matters. “I’m having fun doing everything,” he said.

Moss was appointed a common pleas judge last year and worked in the felony waiver program of the criminal division for most of the year, until his appointment expired in late December. He unsuccessfully ran for a seat on the common pleas bench in the election last fall.

Before his appointment to the court, Moss worked at Mesirov Gelman Jaffe Cramer & Jamieson for 14 years and at Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis for three.

A seat on the common pleas bench has remained open since August, when Common Pleas Judge Abram Frank Reynolds retired from the family court. It was too late in the year to add the vacancy to the November ballot, court officials said.

Rendell has nominated Susan I. Schulman, a Democrat, to fill that vacancy.

The Senate must approve Schulman’s appointment by a two-thirds’ vote. Schulman, an attorney at Weber Gallagher Simpson Stapleton Fires & Newby, said she hadn’t heard anything about her pending appointment.

A spokesman for Rendell said that the next date the Senate could vote on whether to confirm Schulman is Monday, May 3. The governor is “hopeful the Legislature will confirm her that day,” the spokesman said.

Moss’ current appointment will end on Jan. 3, 2006. He said he would run in the judicial primary election in spring 2005 for a seat on either the common pleas bench or the municipal bench.

“I’ve enjoyed being a municipal court judge, and I’ve enjoyed being a common pleas judge,” Moss said. “My understanding is I’ll have the backing of both parties. Hopefully, I’ll have a better ballot position this time.”

- Melissa Nann

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