Joan Rivers went in to the clinic for a routine throat examination and came out dead. She died after she was anesthetized and her renowned medical team took souvenir “selfies” of themselves posing with her. Meanwhile, the doctors did not notice her vital signs trailing off. Fifteen minutes went by. Joan Rivers then went into the cardiac arrest, which deprived her brain of oxygen, which in turn led to her death eight days later.
Investigators have found numerous violations and irregularities during Ms. Rivers’ treatment.
Rivers’ daughter has announced she will file a New York medical malpractice and wrongful death lawsuit against the clinic and the doctors. The allegations will likely include a failure to properly monitor her Propofol – the sedative administered intravenously during the procedure. This is the same drug that Michael Jackson overdosed on.
Joan Rivers may be more famous than the rest of us, but her New York medical malpractice lawyers will have to prove the same things in Court as the rest of us. Her New York medical malpractice claim will have the same elements of proof. Essentially, the family’s lawyers will have to prove that the medical treatment Rivers received at the clinic fell below an acceptable level of medical care, and that this failure – rather than something else – caused her to die.
What can the family sue for? When medical malpractice kills a patient, the family can sue for basically two kinds of relief: (1) compensation for the pain and suffering their loved one suffered before death and (2) “economic” damages, i.e., funeral costs, medical costs, and loss of income or inheritance to the heirs (among other things).
As for the pain and suffering claim, since Rivers was sedated when she was malpracticed, and then fell into a comma until she died, it will be difficult or impossible to prove that she “suffered” at all. You have to have some consciousness to “suffer”. This claim is therefore likely worth nothing.
As for the “economic” loss, usually when an 81-year old dies, the family can’t prove much economic loss. That’s because most 81 year-olds are retired and not supporting their family. The family thus can’t claim lost economic support or that their inheritance was diminished by the death. That leaves just funeral and medical expenses as damages.
But Joan Rivers is not like most 81-year olds. Anyone who has seen the movie “Joan Rivers – A Piece of Work” knows that, behind the makeup, behind the plastic surgery, behind the jokes, she was a ridiculously hard worker, someone whose entire life and self-image were wrapped up in her career. She had no intentions of retiring – ever.
Rivers’ family will thus have a strong argument that Rivers would have continued to make a lot of money for many years. Assuming she wasn’t spending – on herself – all the money she was making, the comedian’s continued success would likely have grown her bank accounts, which in turn would have grown the future inheritance. And that could add up to a lot of money.
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Michael G. Bersani, Esq.
michaels-smolak.com Central & Syracuse NY Medical Malpractice Lawyers
Michaels & Smolak, P.C.