Hartford Hospital Hit With $5.8 Million Verdict in Patient's Death

Connecticut Law Tribune
Robert Storace
January 26, 2017

The family of a 68-year-old Naugatuck man who died when Hartford Hospital personnel failed to reconnect wires of his pacemaker before administering a potent narcotic was awarded $5.8 million by a jury Wednesday morning.

"They [hospital staff] were treating this patient as a generality as opposed to paying attention to his specific needs," Eric P. Smith, attorney for the Ashmore family, told the Connecticut Law Tribune just hours after the six-person Waterbury Superior Court jury reached its decision.

William Ashmore Sr. died Nov. 1, 2011, five days after he underwent successful cardiac surgery to repair a heart valve, according to Smith of New Haven-based Faxon Law Group.

Smith said hospital personnel failed to properly treat Ashmore, who was "alert, stable and recovering" after the surgery. Temporary external pacemaker wires were installed on Ashmore for the purpose of accelerating his heart rate if it slowed.

The next day, Smith said, Ashmore's heart rate slowed "to dangerously low levels," a condition known as bradycardia, after he received medication intended to slow his heart rate. Hospital personnel never connected his client's pacemaker wires to an electrical source to restore his heartbeat to his normal rate.

Instead, Smith said, registered nurse Nicole Martin, who had worked with the hospital for about three years at that time, gave Ashmore an injection of pain medication. "It was pain medication which has the effect of the lowering the heart even more," Smith said.

And, Smith contended, Paul Kamuzora, an advanced practice registered nurse, should have been by Ashmore's "bedside when all of these alarms were going off. You need to go to his bedside to figure out what is going on. He went to his bedside too late. Ultimately, his heart rate slows down to the point of stopping."

The underlying lawsuit claimed Ashmore's heart rate was "dangerously slow" and "no physician was notified" for 15 minutes. That time was vital because Ashmore "was deprived of critical blood flow and oxygen, leading to severe brain damage," Smith said. Ashmore was eventually placed on a ventilator, but died three days later.

After the two-week trial, the jury reached its verdict Wednesday after nearly three hours of deliberations spread over two days. Judge Andrew Roraback presided over the trial.

The hospital was represented by Isabella Squicciarini and David Hardy of Waterbury's Carmody, Torrance, Sandak & Hennessey. Neither attorney was available for comment Wednesday. In addition, Martin and Kamuzora, both of whom still work at the hospital, could not be reached.

But, Smith said, "[the hospital] obviously didn't agree with our view on the subject. They brought in experts that said they were not required to connect him to the pacemaker and they also tried to claim he died for unrelated reasons. Those other reasons were entirely inconsistent with the views of our expert, other Hartford Hospital physicians, as well as the cardiac surgeon who performed the surgery."

The hospital has about 20 days to file an appeal or posttrial motions. While Squicciarini, the hospital's lead attorney, was not available for comment, Smith said Squicciarini told the judge there would "likely be" posttrial motions. If there is an appeal, it would be heard by the Connecticut Appellate Court.

"As far as I am concerned, there are no grounds for an appeal," Smith said. "There are no viable reasons to take away this jury's findings."

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