At Grossman Roth Yaffa Cohen, we see every medical malpractice case as an opportunity to change someone’s life for the better. While representing the families and estates of three separate women who died at Palm Beach County hospitals, we not only secured justice for victims of wrongdoing, we made a legislative impact that would prevent countless other medical malpractice incidents for years to come.
As covered by the Sun Sentinel and other media outlets, several women died under the care of medical personnel while they were patients at West Boca Medical Center, Wellington Regional Medical Center and Jupiter Medical Center. These deaths were the result of the inaction and neglect of their doctors, and we took it upon ourselves to prevent tragic incidents like these from happening again.
The first of these victims, Barbara Masterson, was a 53-year-old nurse with three children. After waking up feeling weak and slurring her speech, she was rushed to the hospital and diagnosed with a hemorrhagic stroke. Despite the severity of the situation, none of the hospitals’ neurosurgeons were willing to perform the surgery she needed. Five hours later, a doctor in Fort Lauderdale agreed to operate on Barbara.
Due to the significantly delayed treatment, these efforts were unsuccessful and Barbara died due to complications that could have been easily avoided by more immediate care.
One Mother’s Day, another victim and 37-year-old mother, Susan Steen, was leaving church when she suddenly collapsed into her husband’s arms. A CT scan revealed that she suffered an aneurysm and was bleeding in her brain. Even though her status was dire, the hospital she was brought to left Susan lying in a bed for three hours. The doctors then transferred her to JFK Medical Center whose personnel’s attempts to save Susan were futile. She died shortly after.
The fate of the third victim was unfortunately no different than Barbara and Susan’s. On September 30, 2003, 53-year-old Mary Stone was driving to work one morning when she suffered a seizure at 7 A.M. After calling her granddaughter on speed dial, paramedics arrived on the scene and transported her to the hospital where she was met by her husband. A CT scan revealed Stone had a right frontal cerebral bleed which was treated with Mannitol.
The emergency room physician attempted to consult with the neurosurgeon however the hospital had two neurosurgeons on staff but no neurosurgeon on ER call that day. Knowing there was only on-call coverage a certain number of days per month, there were no other attempts made to transfer the patient to another facility as required by Florida Law.
A neurosurgeon who had privileges at the hospital Stone was in surgery and would not be able to make it until later that day. Without any success, the hospital began to make calls in an effort to transfer Mary. When her health continued to deteriorate and she became obtunded, she was intubated at 2:30 p.m.
It wasn’t until 6 p.m. when Mary was airlifted to Shands Hospital in Gainesville, Florida where her hemorrhage was removed from the right frontal lobe. Post-surgery, Mary suffered critical neurological deficits such as left-sided paralysis, severely impaired mobility and ambulation and limitations, and basic activities of daily living.
Mary Stone died on October 18, 2003, less than a month after her seizure, from a delay in surgery.
Despite there being over a dozen neurosurgeons in Palm Beach County at the time of these incidents the “full-service” hospitals that treated these women did have a system to efficiently route them to those surgeons in time to save their lives.
Furthermore, no legislation had been placed mandating that those neurosurgeons be on staff or nearby. There were also no existing contracts between those hospitals ensuring the patients would be transported in a timely manner.
In light of the severity of these cases, our legal efforts, and the traction these lawsuits gained in the media, the Palm Beach County Health District introduced Senate Bill 1590. The Bill, also known as the Florida Stroke Act, established that designated stroke centers must either have a neurosurgeon on staff or must quickly reroute a patient to a center that does.
At GRYC, we are dedicated to fighting injustice in every way possible, even if it means defending members of this community by advocating for changes to the systems that harm them. The legislation that resulted from this work is one of the many times we’ve successfully promoted lawmakers to make a change for the better. Every victim deserves to have their story told, and we try to achieve that by shedding light on the harm done to each and every client we have. Our team has continued that mission for 30 years and achieved countless favorable verdicts for our medical malpractice clients.