Source: Times Union

CATSKILL - Albany Medical Center Hospital was found liable for the wrongful death of Thomas P. Meehan, the popular town supervisor of Windham who had been re-elected 19 times.

The jury awarded Meehan's family $1.4 million in Greene County Supreme Court on Thursday.

Meehan, 61, a carpenter, went into Albany Med on Nov. 11, 2009, for hip replacement surgery. He was walking and doing physical therapy the day after the surgery, said the family's lawyer, James Linnan, of Linnan & Associates in Albany.

On Nov. 13 and 14, while still a patient at Albany Med, Meehan had episodes of shortness of breath, elevated heart rate and elevated respiratory rate.

"That is the classic hallmark sign that you might have a pulmonary emboli starting," Linnan said.

Meehan died on Nov. 15. The cause of death was two blood clots in his lungs, Linnan said. He was survived by his wife, Denise, and two adult children.

Linnan argued the doctor overseeing Meehan's care in the hospital, staff physician Dr. Aniko Felligi, ignored the signs and did not order scans that could have revealed the blood clots.

Pulmonary embolism is a blockage in the lungs that is caused by blood clots that travel to the lungs from another part of the body.

"What happens is you get a blood clot in your leg or your pelvis, a typical post-operative complication from hip surgery," Linnan said. "Then little pieces start breaking off and start flowing up the veins and eventually they go through the heart and hit the lung, and the lung can't get oxygen because the lungs' blood vessels are clogged with a blood clot."

Meehan should have been given an anti-coagulant called heparin, Linnan said.

"If he had been put on heparin on the 13th or 14th, the blood clots would not have propagated and they would not have hit his lungs and he would lived," he said. "But the signs and symptoms were totally ignored."

An Albany Med spokeswoman said the hospital does not comment on litigation.

Linnan did not seek a pain and suffering award from the jury in the medical malpractice case since Meehan died almost instantly. "He sat down in a chair, his eyes rolled back in his head, he slumped over and he was nonresponsive," he said.

The $1.4 million award is for economic damages that include Meehan's future earnings and the value of work he may have done around the house. The jury's award was actually higher than the figures Linnan submitted on behalf of Meehan.

John M. Hochfelder, a White Plains lawyer who follows medical malpractice verdicts on his New York Injury Cases Blog, said it was an interesting award.

"I think $1.4 million for economic damages for a 61-year-old carpenter and town supervisor is a pretty significant award, quite frankly," Hochfelder said.

"I think the jury was impressed."