$3 million awarded in transplant suit BALTIMORE CITY

December 05, 1992|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,Staff Writer

A Baltimore jury returned a $3 million verdict yesterda against a Pittsburgh hospital accused of missing chances to perform a liver transplant because a dying patient's health insurance wasn't in line.

The jury deliberated two hours before finding Presbyterian University Hospital, a leader in transplant surgery, negligent in the Sept. 6, 1985, death of 32-year-old Hugh Eric Wilson. The jury ordered the hospital to pay $2.5 million in damages to Mr. Wilson's wife and two daughters and another $500,000 to the Baltimore man's estate.

George M. Church, an attorney representing the hospital, said ,, the verdict will be cut in half as part of an agreement requiring his client to drop its claims against other defendants in the suit who have already settled with the Wilsons. He added an appeal would be filed on a ruling allowing the suit against the Pennsylvania hospital to be heard in a Maryland court.

During a three-week trial before Baltimore Circuit Judge Thomas E. Noel, lawyers for Joyce Wilson and her two daughters said the hospital refused two livers matching the patient's B blood type because insurance problems had not been worked out. A key piece of evidence was a letter written by Dr. Thomas E. Starzl, a pioneer in liver transplantation who recently directed operations in which baboon and pig livers were transplanted into humans.

In the letter, Dr. Starzl said the hospital turned down the two livers, adding: "I believe that an injustice was committed in the Wilson case and that the sooner we recognize this, the more certain we can be that some future patient in desperate straits will not die as a result of this kind of studied neglect."

Lawyers for the hospital said Mr. Wilson was too sick to be saved when he arrived in Pittsburgh.

Testimony showed Mr. Wilson was working as an electrician when a November 1984 checkup showed his liver was not functioning properly. Doctors with Chesapeake Health Plan, a Baltimore health-maintenance organization, said he would die without a transplant and referred him to the Pittsburgh hospital.

Daniel F. Goldstein, a lawyer representing the Wilsons, said yesterday, "We're pleased that Hugh Wilson finally got justice."

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