Malpractice trial involving death of man opens today
Jan. 8, 2003
By Fred Ney
Trial is scheduled to begin this morning in the case of a 72-year-old Wilkes-Barre man whose family contends his death was caused by medical malpractice while he was a patient in Wilkes-Barre Mercy Hospital under the care of doctors Esther McKenzie and Walter J. Boris.
Plaintiff in the case is Dorothy Thornton, administratrix of the estate of her late husband, Frank E. Thornton. The couple's five adult children are also plaintiffs in the case.
Thorntons are being represented by Attorney Joseph Quinn.
Luzerne County Judge Mark Ciavarella Tuesday presided over jury selection.
Luzerne County Judge Peter Paul Olszewski will preside at the trial that he scheduled to commence this morning at 8:15 a.m. provided that jury selection was completed on Tuesday.
Also named as defendants in the suit are Mercy Hospital and its parent company, Mercy Health Partners.
According to the complaint, Frank Thornton on Aug. 17, 2000, was admitted to Mercy Hospital for elective surgery.
Thornton had undergone a heart valve replaceme nt in March 2000, and subsequent follow-up treatment detected a "nodule" on his left lung that doctors said required surgery.
Thornton was taken into an operating room and was given anesthesia preparatory to the operation. However, his condition worsened while he was unconscious and it was determined to cancel the operation.
Thornton's condition required him to remain hospitalized at Mercy until his family, on Sept. 6, 2000, requested that he be transferred to Hershey Medical Center.
He died on Sept. 18, 2000. Following an autopsy, it was determined that Thornton died from "improper ventilation," or suffocation, caused by "medical misadventure."
"Frank E. Thornton's irreversible brain damage and subsequent death was preventable had the defendants properly screened him prior to surgery and or timely and appropriately responded to the signs and symptoms he was exhibiting," the complaint alleges.
The lawsuit also casts doubt on the medical credentials of Dr. McKenzie and accuses Mercy Hospital of failing to properly nvestigate her background before hiring her. The suit seeks damages in excess of $150,000.
In filing answers to the lawsuit's allegations, doctors McKenzie and Boris and Mercy Hospital all deny any wrongdoing in the treatment of Thornton.
McKenzie is being represented by attorneys J. Scott Kramer and Dana J. Ash, from Philadelphia. Boris is represented by attorneys George Nace 3d and Tara Reid, Allentown.
Mercy Hospital is represented by attorneys John Q. Durkin of Scranton.