Boy's asphyxiation caused by bed's unsafe design, suit alleged
|Failure to Warn, Products Liability - Design Defect, Products Liability - Breach of Warranty, Products Liability - Medical Devices|
|Larry L. Bartlett, as Administrator of the Estate of Joshua H. Bartlett, Deceased v. Franciscan Health Support Services, LLC; Franciscan Health Support, Inc. and Invacare Corp., No. 1756/10|
|Onondaga Supreme, NY|
|John C. Cheundulo
- Patrick J. Higgins; Powers & Santola LLP; Albany, NY, for Estate of Joshua H. Bartlett
- James H. CosgriffIII; Petrone & Petrone, P.C.; Buffalo, NY, for Franciscan Health Support Inc., Franciscan Health Support Services, LLC
- Scott L. Haworth; Haworth Coleman & Gerstman, LLC; New York, NY, for Franciscan Health Support Services, LLC, Franciscan Health Support Inc., Invacare Corp.
- Lexington Insurance Co. for Franciscan Health Support and Franciscan Health Support Services
On July 13, 2008, plaintiff's decedent Joshua Bartlett, an 11-year-old disabled boy, suffered asphyxiation. Joshua, whose weight approximated a mere 45 pounds, choked when his head became lodged between the railings of his specialized bed, which was manufactured by Elyria, Ohio-based Invacare Corp. Joshua had undergone surgery that addressed scoliosis, and the bed was intended to aid his convalescence.
Joshua's father, Larry Bartlett, acting as the administrator of Joshua's estate, sued Invacare; the organization that provided Joshua's bed, Liverpool-based Franciscan Health Support Inc.; and an affiliated entity, Franciscan Health Support Services, LLC. The estate alleged that the bed was defectively designed, that the bed's defect constituted a breach of the product's implied warranty and that the defendants negligently failed to provide warnings that disclosed the dangers that could have stemmed from the bed's use.
The estate's counsel claimed that Invacare's bed could not be safely used by children or small adults. He noted that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Hospital Bed Safety Working Group had recommended that beds' railings should not be separated by a distance that exceeds 4.75 inches. Joshua's bed satisfied that recommendation, but the estate's counsel contended that the recommendation was not applicable to beds that were being used by children or small adults. Invacare was a member of the Hospital Bed Safety Working Group. Thus, the estate's counsel contended that Invacare understood that improperly spaced railings could cause serious injuries. He further noted that Invacare had previously recalled beds whose railings could have allowed such injuries. He also noted that the recall was accompanied by the company's issuance of warnings that disclosed the hazards that could stem from improper spacing of a bed's railings. However, the recall and warnings were not issued in the United States; they were limited to the United Kingdom.
The estate's counsel also claimed that Franciscan Health Support failed to assess the safety of the beds that the company provided to its clients. He also contended that Invacare's beds were accompanied by manuals that explained the product's proper uses, but that Franciscan Health Support substituted customized manuals that did not include warnings. He noted that the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations had previously issued a warning that required the assessment of the safety of beds' railings. He contended that Franciscan Health Support had received the warning.
Franciscan Health Support's counsel contended that Joshua's death was an unusual event that was not a result of a lack of warnings. He claimed that Invacare and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had not indicated that Invacare's beds were unsafe. He also contended that Franciscan Health Support does not conduct clinical assessments of the needs of the patients who receive its beds. He claimed that those assessments must be performed by the patient's caretakers and doctors.
Invacare's counsel contended that Franciscan Health Support's workers provided and installed the railings that protected Joshua's bed. He claimed that the company should have assessed the safety of the railings.
Invacare's counsel also contended that the Hospital Bed Safety Working Group's recommendations were applicable to all beds, and he claimed that Invacare's beds satisfied all relevant recommendations and regulations that governed beds that were sold and used in the United States.
Joshua suffered asphyxiation. The estate's counsel noted that Joshua's body bore markings that indicated that he struggled during his asphyxiation.
Joshua's estate sought recovery of damages for Joshua's pain and suffering.
The parties negotiated a pretrial settlement. Invacare's insurer agreed to pay $1.55 million, and the remaining defendants' insurer agreed to pay $500,000. Thus, the settlement totaled $2.05 million.
This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiff's and defense counsel.