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Personal Injury Verdicts & Awards

Tube obviously misplaced, 2 nurses testify in surgery death

Tube obviously misplaced, 2 nurses testify in surgery death

Testimony continues in a suit filed against Mercy Hospital by the wife of a patient who died.


WILKES-BARRE - Moments after doctors tried operating on Frank Thornton, two nurses said they clearly saw signs that Thornton's breathing tube was pumping air into his esophagus instead of his windpipe, the nurses testified Thursday.

Nurses Karen Licata and Deborah Lisman also said they thought the mistake would have been placed into the 72-year-old man's chart and relayed to his family. But instead, the doctors and Mercy Hospital never made that part of Thornton's chart, the family attorney said.

Attorney Joe Quinn said the blunder caused by Thornton's operating doctors, Esther McKenzie and Walter Boris, in August 2000 led to his irreversible brain damage and death.

The nurses testified in the second day of the Luzerne County jury trial. Dorothy Thornton, administrator to her husband's estate, filed suit against the hospital in August.

The lawsuit says doctors placed Thornton under anesthetic to begin a surgery. But when they put him on a ventilator to keep him breathing, the doctors placed the breathing tube down his esophagus instead of his windpipe, the suit says.

That forced his body to go without oxygen for six to 10 minutes, leading to the brain damage and death, Quinn says.

Quinn says the case is full of deceit, lies and negligence. And the hospital's failure to tell Thornton's family about the incident and the error ignores a patient's right to know.

Under questioning from Quinn, Licata told the jury she noticed Thornton's heart rate drop because of inadequate ventilation soon after the doctors placed the tube inside Thornton.

And Lisman soon noticed Thornton's stomach swelling during the procedure, and made her observation known to others in the operating room, she said.

"To the best of my recollection, I said it aloud," Lisman said.

"Did you say it to intervene on behalf of a patient who was in danger?" Quinn asked.

"Correct," she replied.

The doctors later tried using another tube through Thornton's nose to remove air from the stomach. That could not be done because the other tube was already obstructing the esophagus, Quinn has argued.

But McKenzie, in taped testimony played Thursday, refused to accept responsibility in Thornton's death.

"I cannot and will not answer that question," she said.

Testimony will resume before Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas Judge Peter Paul Olszewski Jr. at 8:15 a.m. today.

PLEASE NOTE: Every case is fact specific, and these results do not guaranty the same results will be obtained in a different case.

About HKQ Law

Hourigan, Kluger & Quinn is considered one of the top civil litigation and commercial law firms that has had the privilege of representing more families in the courtroom than any other NEPA firm. The attorneys at HKQ Law have been honored as Super Lawyers, Best Lawyers, Best Law Firms by US News and World Report, and have received the AV Preeminent Rating by Martindale-Hubbel. HKQ Law was recently recognized for one of the top 20 Verdicts in Pennsylvania.

The firm’s Personal Injury Team, led by Attorney Joe Quinn, Jr., has won some of the largest verdicts and settlements in the region's history. The Personal Injury Team focuses on a wide array of personal injury claims and civil litigation, including medical malpractice, auto and truck accidents, aviation accidents, unsafe vehicles, dangerous or defective products, workplace injuries (worker's compensation), construction site accidents, claim denials by insurance companies, dangerous drugs, defective children's products, nursing home abuse and neglect, and falls due to unsafe conditions (slip and fall).

Attorney Joseph A Quinn, Jr. is one of only 100 attorneys in the United States (and one of only three in Pennsylvania) honored with membership in the Inner Circle of Trial Advocates, and one of only 500 attorneys worldwide chosen to be a Fellow of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers. He has been a Pennsylvania Super Lawyer every year since the program began and has been listed in The Best Lawyers in America every year since the publication was established in 1987. Best Lawyers also named him top personal injury attorney for Northeastern Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley. In addition, Best Lawyers, in conjunction with U.S. News & World Report, has designated HKQ a Tier 1 Best Law Firm across multiple categories in Northeastern Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley.

Since the inception of the firm, the Commercial / Corporate Team led by Attorney Allan Kluger has provided comprehensive, integrated legal services to many of Northeastern and Eastern Pennsylvania's largest corporations, businesses, banks, non-profits and institutions, handling matters involving labor and employment, wills, trusts and estate planning, estate administration, elder law, commercial transactions, residential and commercial real estate, zoning, land use and development, telecommunications, mediations and arbitrations, commercial litigation, title insurance, business planning and business succession, corporate/business structuring, employment discrimination law for employers, banking, creditor’s rights, finance, lender liability defense, covenants not to compete, construction law, mergers and acquisitions and other business matters.

Additional information can be found at or by calling (800) 760-1529.



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