One suit filed, one dismissed against Mason hospital

By Lawrence Smith | Apr 25, 2008

POINT PLEASANT – Despite the recent dismissal of one filed against it from earlier this year, Pleasant Valley Hospital finds itself defending against another malpractice suit.

On March 13, Jodi M. Keiffer, a resident of Ripley, filed suit against PVH alleging it, and Dr. Steven Karl Rerych were negligent in providing post-surgical care to Keiffer following a laparoscopic cholecystectomy on March 15, 2007. The suit does not name Rerych as a co-defendant, but says his acts "were done in the course and scope of his agency and/or employment with PVH and are, therefore, deemed the acts and/or omissions of the corporate defendant, PVH."

In her complaint and suit, filed with the assistance of Tony L. O'Dell, with the Charleston law firm of Berthold, Tiano and O'Dell, Keiffer alleges she "began experiencing severe abdominal pain associated with nausea." Rerych, "and other agents and/or employees of the defendant" were negligent, the suit alleges, by, among other things, not ordering follow-up tests, treatment or "transfer to a hospital where that procedure could have been performed emergently."

As a result of PVH's negligence, Keiffer alleges she "developed a bile leak which required additional surgery." As compensation, Keiffer is asking for a sum "far in excess any sums necessary to confer the jurisdiction upon this Court, together with prejudgment and postjudgment interest, the costs expended in the prosecution of this lawsuit, including reasonable attorney fees ..."

Vague allegations

About 10 days after Keiffer filed hers, Mason Circuit Judge Thomas C. Evans III dismissed a suit filed by a convicted felon. On March 24, Evans agreed with PVH's attorneys that a suit filed in January against it, and two physicians was not only vague, but also failed to meet the pre-suit requirements under the Medical and Professional Liability Act.

According to court records, David M. Persons filed suit against PVH, and Drs. Robert McCleary and Anthony McEldowney on January 16. Though he lists his residence as West Columbia, Persons is currently incarcerated at the Huttonsville Correctional Center.

Court records show he pled guilty to conspiracy to attempted breaking and entering on March 14, 2006, and sentenced to an indeterminate term of 1- to 5-years in prison on Jan. 16, 2007.

In his complaint and suit, which he filed pro se, Persons, submitted boilerplate language making a general claim for negligence on the defendants' behalf. The closest Persons comes to being specific in his suit is alleging that between December 2005 and January 2006 "the existence of a displaced fracture with overriding in the right distal radius and a displaced fracture of the ulnar styloid" was not properly treated.

Court records show though he does not mention McEldowney and McCleary personally, Persons maintains "Each and every one of the foregoing acts and omissions committed by the Defendants, in the course and scope of there agency for Defendant Hospital, taken separately or collectively, constitute a direct and proximate cause of the injuries and damages sustained by plaintiff."

Defense counsel Paul T. Farrell, with the Huntington law firm of Farrell, Farrell and Farrell, made note of Persons' vague allegations in his motion to dismiss dated Feb. 1. Also, though Farrell acknowledged that Persons did receive treatment from McEldowney on Jan. 9 and 12, 2006, he "failed to appear for follow-up appointments on Jan. 18 and 25, 2006."

In addition to saying that Persons saw McEldowney one other time on February 8, 2006, Farrell said hospital records showed that "plaintiff complained of not being able to see Dr. McCleary on three occasions because Dr. McCleary was ill."

Evans granted Farrell's motion immediately following a March 24 hearing.

Three months, three suits

Persons filing his suit in January, and Keiffer filing hers in March makes the third one against PVH in as many months. In February, Alma Jewell Arrowood filed a wrongful termination suit after she complained to both her superiors and hospital regulators of "unsafe staffing conditions."

According to court records, Arrowood, a nurse from Jackson County, Ohio, alleges she was first suspended from her job in October 2007 following notification of her unit manager about her intention to notify authorities about the assignment of "an excessive number of patients" in violation of state law. Despite her suspension, Arrowood went ahead and contacted both the state Office of Health Facility Licensure and Certification and the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration of her concerns.

Upon their discovery that she followed-through on her complaint, PVH fired Arrowood, her suit alleges.

According to court records, PVH has yet to reply to Arrowood's suit. Along with Keiffer's, it is before Mason Circuit Judge David W. Nibert.

Mason Circuit Court Case Nos. 08-C-9 (Persons), 08-C-33 (Arrowood) and 08-C-40 (Keiffer)

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