Family sues hospital in death

Donna Magdziarz says she wants justice for her husband’s death that came after he was given the wrong medication in a Hammond hospital in January 2002.

So she filed a civil suit Wednesday against the hospital — St. Margaret Mercy Healthcare Center — and four other corporations. One of the other companies named as defendants is a division of Cardinal Health, the company that runs the pharmacy at St. Margaret’s Hammond site.

Joined by her two adult children and her legal counsel, Magdziarz discussed the suit in the attorneys’ Chicago office.

“Our purpose in filing this lawsuit is to force hospital pharmacies to use safe-labeling packages that are readily available to them so that no other family has to ever suffer the loss that we have,” she said.

“The money is justice,” she added. “This is justice for my family. My children and grandchildren didn’t deserve to lose him.”

While the amount being sought in the suit is not specified, a medical malpractice law caps the hospital’s liability at $250,000. Plaintiffs in malpractice suits can seek a maximum of $1 million from the Indiana Medical Malpractice Compensation Fund.

But the Magdziarz family’s attorneys, Kurt Lloyd and Timothy Cavanagh, maintain that this is a product liability case involving negligent pharmacy labeling and is not subject to the award caps set by Indiana law.

Donna’s husband, Michael, a Hammond Fire Department captain, died Jan. 7, 2002, after a nurse at the St. Margaret Medical Healthcare Center inadvertently gave him the wrong medication. At that time, Michael Magdziarz was recovering from successful heart bypass surgery at St. Margaret in Hammond.

The hospital admitted the error, and the nurse no longer works at St. Margaret, said Robert Anderson of the Krieg, DeVault and Galvin law firm in Hammond. Anderson is representing St. Margaret.

“It was a serious error, a regrettable error, and we take this seriously.” Anderson also said.

In addition, Anderson said the hospital has offered settlement to the family that falls within the medical malpractice award cap, but that offer was rejected. And the hospital has paid all of the Magdziarz funeral and funeral-related bills that have been submitted.

“It sounds like someone trying to get around the cap,” Anderson said Wednesday about the suit.

Cavanagh called the medical malpractice caps unfair.

“Juries have awarded millions of dollars to the families of similar victims,” Cavanagh said.

As for patient safety, Anderson said St. Margaret hospital made “changes made immediately after this incident to ensure patient safety.”

But Anderson declined further comment about the changes Wednesday, citing the fact that litigation had just been filed that day.

“Medication errors account for 5 to 10 percent of fatal errors in hospitals,” said Lloyd, an attorney representing the family. “Despite this well-known error rate, St. Margaret’s and Cardinal Health did not have any safe medication delivery systems in place … this tragic death was avoidable.”

Along with Sisters of St. Francis Healthcare Services doing business as St. Margaret Mercy Healthcare Centers, and a division of Cardinal Health, Baxter Healthcare Corp., Baxter International Inc., and Abbott Laboratories were also named in the suit. The lawyers have have seen similar situations in Arizona.

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