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A Philadelphia jury has awarded $4.5 million to the family of an elderly man who died in August 2001 after doctors performed surgery on the wrong kidney. However, the hospital defendant in Pritchard v. Fox Chase Cancer Center had settled with the survivors of John Pritchard early on in the case, and the doctor defendant agreed to a high-low during the trial. Attorneys involved in Pritchard said the jury apportioned 65 percent liability to Fox Chase and 35 percent liability to urologist Richard Greenberg. Fox Chase settled with the Pritchards for $117,500 well before trial, papers filed with the court show. According to the chambers of Judge Victor J. DiNubile Jr., who presided at trial, Greenberg and the Pritchards entered into a $50,000 to $450,000 high-low the day before the jury went out for deliberations. Plaintiffs attorney Aaron Freiwald of Layser & Freiwald said the high in the agreement was actually $475,000. Irrespective of how much the plaintiffs wind up collecting from the defendants, the Pritchard jury’s verdict includes one of relatively few multimillion-dollar awards handed down by a Philadelphia panel this year. As of the end of August, Philadelphia juries had arrived at nine verdicts involving awards for more than $1 million and three for more than $4 million, according to The Legal Intelligencer‘s analysis of Philadelphia Common Pleas data. In comparison, 2003 saw 12 $4 million-plus jury awards, while there were 16 in 2004. According to court papers, Pritchard, who previously suffered from bladder cancer, had a left kidney that was either congenitally absent or nonfunctioning. Greenberg performed a urologic oncology evaluation on Pritchard in early May 2001, when Pritchard was 76. A CT scan done soon thereafter showed a congenitally absent/nonfunctioning left kidney, but a subsequent renal scan showed that Pritchard’s right kidney was abnormal while his left kidney worked properly, the plaintiffs asserted in court papers. In July 2001, according to court papers, Greenberg performed on Pritchard a cystoprostatectomy — surgical removal of the bladder and prostate. As part of that procedure, Pritchard’s upper urinary tract was diverted to allow for the passage of urine once his bladder was removed. Shortly following the operation, it became obvious that Pritchard was passing unusually low amounts of urine. An ultrasound indicated that Pritchard’s bad kidney had been connected to the urinary diversion, and he was taken back to the emergency room for a corrective procedure, according to court papers filed by the plaintiffs. He later died of sepsis and organ failure. Pritchard’s survivors said Greenberg should not have relied on the results of the erroneous renal scan without first clearing up the various medical reports’ inconsistency. A plaintiffs’ urology expert concluded that Greenberg had deviated from accepted medical standards and that those deviations were substantial factors in contributing to Pritchard’s death. Greenberg responded in court papers that he had “rendered reasonable and appropriate medical care” to Pritchard. A urology expert for the defense wrote in his report that given Pritchard’s age and medical history, the surgery alone could have caused medical problems and that it was not Greenberg’s fault that he was given incorrect information from the renal scan. Freiwald said the jury deliberated for roughly three hours before reaching its 10-2 verdict, which consisted of $100,000 for past medical costs and $4.4 million for pain and suffering. The trial itself lasted from Sept. 19 to Sept. 23, according to Kyle Thompson of Kilcoyne & Nesbitt in Plymouth Meeting, who represented Greenberg at trial. Suzanne Bachovin of German Gallagher & Murtagh in Philadelphia served as counsel for Fox Chase. The plaintiffs’ key medical expert at trial was urologist Thomas Kasper of Rockville, Md.

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