Pa. Hospital Risk Manager Says Malpractice Documents Were Altered

September 28, 2005

The chief executive officer and another top official of a city hospital knowingly gave dozens of altered documents to plaintiffs’ attorneys in a medical malpractice case, according to recent testimony in a Wilkes-Barre, Pa. court

Anne Marie Zimmerman, risk manager of Mercy Hospital, testified that she provided 67 altered documents at the direction of a hospital attorney, even though she, the attorney and CEO James May knew the documents had information deleted from them.

The hospital attorney, Ben Post, denied wrongdoing but asked the judge for a mistrial, saying the jury had been prejudiced by Zimmerman’s testimony. Luzerne County Common Pleas Judge Peter Paul Olszewski Jr. denied the request, which was rendered moot when the hospital settled the lawsuit Tuesday morning.

Terms of the settlement were to be announced in court on Wednesday.

“Certainly, in my career, I have never seen these types of irregularities,” Olszewski said.

The hospital released a statement Tuesday defending May and Zimmerman.

May “does not ever have responsibility for document production within the course of litigation claims. He and Anne Marie Zimmerman appropriately relied entirely on our counsel,” the statement said.

The plaintiffs, William and Tukishia Bobbett, sued the hospital over the July 2001 death of their 4-year-old son, Torajee, claiming doctors and nurses failed to diagnose and treat the boy’s bowel obstruction in the 10 hours he was at the hospital. The boy subsequently went into cardiac arrest and died.

The Bobbetts’ attorney, Joseph Quinn, said in court that Post’s conduct in the documents matter was “a clear violation of professional conduct” and “a clear violation of the law.”

Quinn said he expects Post to be reported to a state disciplinary board.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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