The Zerbich Case
After undergoing a craniotomy to relieve a brain bleed at tertiary hospital, Debora Zernich, then 48-years old, was transferred to a rehabilitation hospital. There, since Debora was classified as a “fall risk”, she was placed in a canopy-style enclosure bed, given restraints for fall precautions, and ordered a 24-hour Personal Care Attendant.
Less than two weeks into her stay at the rehabilitation hospital, Debora was found on the floor with a “goose egg” on her head after experiencing a fall out of the supposedly secured canopy bed. As a result, Debora experienced a second brain bleed and devastating neurological injury. She was transferred back to the tertiary hospital where she remained until her discharge to a skilled care facility. She remained at that facility for approximately 21 months, until her discharge home.
Currently - although Debora receives speech, physical, and occupational therapy - she is practically non-communicative and wheelchair bound. She still currently requires 24-hour supervision and total assistance with the activities of her daily living.
On behalf of Debora and her husband Alan, we filed suit against the rehabilitation hospital.
In taking the depositions of the nurses at the rehabilitation hospital, we discovered that despite fall precautions – including physician orders for a secure enclosure bed and 24-hour watch - Debora was not provided with a 24-hour attendant due to staffing issues that the Supervising Nurse was well aware of at the beginning of the day. Based on this information, a nursing expert provided us with an opinion that the rehabilitation hospital was negligent in its care of Debora and that its negligence caused Debora to fall out of bed.
Additionally, we secured expert opinions from a neurologist and a neurosurgeon. They both opined that the fall on Debora’s head caused the second brain bleed and a lost chance of recovery for Debora (it was noted that upon Debora’s admission to the rehabilitation hospital, its own physiatrist recorded that Debora’s “prognosis for rehabilitation is fair” and then recorded in his discharge summary that Debora “had seemed relatively stable until … she was found on the floor.”)
Since Debora required 24-hour supervision and total assistance with the activities of her daily living, we also secured the services of a “Life Care Plan” expert. This expert projected the future costs that Debora and her husband would incur over the course of Debora’s life expectancy.
Approximately one week prior to the scheduled jury trial, the case was mediated before a former Allegheny County Trial Judge. This resulted in a substantial settlement for Debora and Alan. After the settlement, our firm helped the family establish a Special Needs Trust to help ensure that the future care and medical needs of Debora would be taken care of.