Two stories shine spotlight on dangers of preventable medical errors

Chart showing medical errors as the third leading cause of death in the U.S.As lawyers who have represented hundreds of medical malpractice victims, we’re acutely aware of the dangers associated with the hundreds of thousands of preventable medical errors committed by health care professionals in the United States each year. That’s why our interest was piqued by two troubling articles that recently appeared in the Washington Post.

The first:  A dog bite sent him to the ER. A cascade of missteps nearly killed him, tells the story of 50-year-old David Krall who nearly died after doctors and ER personnel failed to realize that a life-threatening infection caused by a dog bite was spreading throughout his body. The cavalcade of errors that nearly killed the previously healthy industrial engineer from Lexington, Kentucky included unconscionably long waits for treatment in the ER, doctors’ refusal to recognize that the dog bite was the source of the infection, and misdiagnosis of the infection itself.

As a result of the mistakes, Mr. Krall spent 51 days in the hospital, lost portions of several toes, and is now deaf in one ear.

One reason he almost lost his life: doctors refused to listen when his wife and family friend who is a physiologist insisted that the dog bite was the source of the infection that was rampaging through Mr. Krall’s body. Here’s how the Post  described the situation:

After David was moved to the intensive care unit, Becky said, she repeatedly mentioned the dog bite as a possible cause of his infection. But she said doctors told her they didn’t think the bite was relevant. They were fairly certain that David’s meningitis infection was caused by a bacteria known as Neisseria meningitidis . How he had acquired it was a mystery.

Becky grew increasingly insistent after a physiologist friend found articles in medical journals about a rare bacterium transmitted in dog saliva, Capnocytophaga canimorsus , which causes potentially fatal infections, particularly in people without spleens.

Forster, who was called in on the sixth of David’s 51-day hospitalization, recalled that the ICU team “mentioned the dog bite as an aside. They said the wound didn’t look bad, and they weren’t focused on it.”

Things weren’t helped when ER doctors at the University of Kentucky’s Albert B. Chandler Hospital failed to treat him even though his blood pressure was extremely low and his temperature had climbed to 102.9. Krall and his wife Becky decided to go home at 12:30 A.M. after waiting more than five hours for the hospital’s staff to address his symptoms. When they came back the next morning Krall was near death.

You may read the entire, harrowing story here. 

Our second tale of medical woe involves one of the scariest of all medical nightmares: a surgical mistake that results in the removal of a perfectly healthy body part. In our second story: He underwent surgery to remove his right testicle. When he woke up, his left one was missing., reporter Amy Wang recounts the trials and tribulations of Steven Haines, who visited his urologist complaining of persistent pain in his right testicle. Here’s Ms. Wang’s description of events:

An ultrasound revealed that the testicle had atrophied, with scarring and damage from a previous injury, according to court documents. And so the doctor scheduled an orchiectomy — or surgical removal of the testicle — to help alleviate Hanes’s pain.

The good news? The orchiectomy was successful.

The bad news? The doctor removed the wrong testicle during the surgery.“At this point it appeared that the left testicle and cord may actually have been removed instead of the right one,” the surgeon, Valley Spencer Long, wrote in a postoperative report, according to court records.

No, I’m not kidding and no, it’s not at all funny. To the contrary, what happened to Mr. Hanes is tragic, inexplicable and inexcusable. And while rare, such mistakes do happen. A 2011 Post roundup of such cases included doctors in Minneapolis removing a healthy kidney from a man with kidney cancer and an ophthalmologist in Portland, Ore., operating on the wrong eye of a 4-year-old boy.

“Few medical errors are as vivid and terrifying as those that involve patients who have undergone surgery on the wrong body part, undergone the incorrect procedure, or had a procedure intended for another patient,” the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says. In the medical community, “wrong-site, wrong-procedure, wrong-patient errors” are known as WSPEs, and they are so egregious and usually preventable that the federal health department deems them “never events” — “errors that should never occur and indicate serious underlying safety problems.”

Today, Mr. Hanes, who was severely traumatized by the incident, is living with the pain in his right testicle for two reasons: first because he is understandably fearful of undergoing another surgery, and, second, because if the remaining testicle is removed he will be forced to undergo testosterone replacement therapy for the rest of his life.

You may read Mr. Hanes’ story here.

Finally, if you are hurt or a member of your family is injured or killed because a medical professional made a mistake, please contact the experienced legal team at Betras, Kopp & Harshman and set up a no-cost consultation as soon as you can. We will use our experience to examine your case, provide our best advice, and do all we can to help you secure justice and the financial settlement you and your loved ones need and deserve.

TV Law is Easy, We Win the Tough Ones in the Real World

Series featuring lawyers have been a staple on television since the first set flickered to life decades ago. Along with attracting millions of viewers, the shows shaped America’s perception of the criminal justice system. For instance, according to TV, crimes were committed, investigations conducted, and trials held in an hour, minus 14 minutes of commercials.

Winning on TV takes half-way decent acting and an hour. Winning a case in the real world takes years, knowledge, dedication and a highly skilled attorney like David Betras.

Those devoted to Perry Mason, the Defenders, Judd for the Defense, LA Law, the Defenders, or Matlock believed defendants would always be acquitted in the last five or ten minutes of the show—usually as the result of the real villain being unmasked in court. Fans of the various iterations of Law and Order know one thing for sure: the bad guy or guys are going down and then they’re going up the river—usually for decades.

After 34 years of practicing criminal law, I’ve learned one thing: the legal world portrayed on TV is a fantasy. First of all, it can take years to investigate a criminal case, research the applicable law, file briefs and motions, consider plea deals, and if necessary try the case in court.

Second, winning a criminal case is not anywhere near as easy as Perry Mason makes it seem. I’ve won hundreds, but each one has been a long, uphill battle waged against talented prosecutors who walk into court confident they have the evidence that will convict my client.

And, I can tell you from personal experience U.S. attorneys, who have all the resources of the federal government at their disposal, are the most confident of all. There may only be one or two lawyers from the Justice Department in court, but when I look over at the prosecution table, I see thousands of FBI/DEA/ATF agents, forensic experts with PhDs from Harvard and MIT, and an army of highly trained paralegals who do nothing but help the attorneys I’m facing prepare the government’s case. It’s an intimidating situation to say the least.

But even though Jack McCoy may win every time on TV, it is possible to mount a defense that results in the dismissal of the charges filed against my client or a “not guilty” verdict from a judge or jury. It’s important to note, however, that I’ve never achieved that outcome by cross-examining a witness so adroitly that they break down and confess to the crime while on the stand.

So what does it take to win? Hard work, knowledge of the law and how to apply it, a fair amount of theatrical skills, and total commitment to seeking and securing justice for my clients.

Here’s an example of how the legal system works in the real world.

In the early morning of June 1, 2016, Warren, Ohio police officers who had responded to a house alarm entered the home in question to investigate a burglary and shooting incident that had taken place at the residence. While walking through the home they noticed what they believed was evidence of narcotics trafficking. Based on that observation, the police obtained a warrant, searched the home and found drugs, drug paraphernalia, money, and loaded firearms.  I’m sure you won’t be shocked to learn that the homeowners were soon indicted and charged with a number of drug and firearms-related offenses.

So far so good, right?

Well, actually no, because after reviewing the facts and the law, I concluded that the police had violated my clients’ Fourth Amendment rights. Just about everyone is familiar with the First and

It may be the Fourth Amendment, but it is every bit as important as the First and Second…

Second Amendments, but believe me, the Fourth is just as important because it’s the one that protects all of us against unreasonable searches and seizures.

In light of the Fourth Amendment violations, I filed a motion in Federal Court to suppress the evidence in the case. Not surprisingly, the Justice Department opposed my motion. On August 7, 2019, more than three years after my clients were arrested, Federal Judge Christopher Boyko conducted an evidentiary hearing on the matter. On August 21, he issued this ruling:

Law enforcement did not have consent to enter the Residence a third time and process the scene for evidence related to the burglary and assault on police. And since police did not have a warrant, the third reentry was unreasonable and therefore a violation of the Fourth Amendment. Since Detective Gambill based her Affidavit for a search warrant on facts she uncovered during the third reentry, those facts must be excised from the Affidavit. Finally, the Government failed to establish by a preponderance that the evidence it seeks to introduce would have been inevitably discovered in a lawful manner. Thus, any evidence uncovered or learned about during Detective Laprocina’ s search of the Residence must be excluded. Defendants’ Motions to Suppress are GRANTED. You can read Judge Boyko’s order in its entirety here: Opinion and Order (002)

What does the decision prove?

It proves that cases can take years to work their way through the criminal justice system.

It proves that the government must play by the rules. Please don’t underestimate how important this is. As I noted earlier, the government possesses awesome power. If police and prosecutors abuse it by ignoring the Constitution they are undermining the rule of law, endangering the freedoms we hold dear, and placing all of us, including law-abiding citizens, in jeopardy.

It proves that a skilled, knowledgeable, experienced, and dedicated attorney can take on the federal government and prevail.

Victories like this, which demonstrate the fundamental strength and fairness of our judicial system, make me proud to be an American and an attorney.

And I have to admit, as I read Judge Boyko’s order, I could swear I heard the Perry Mason theme song playing softly in the background…

New York Times investigation: Breathalyzer test results can’t be trusted

Breathalyzer screenIt’s a tradition here in the Valley and across the country: every weekend people climb into their cars and drive to their favorite restaurants, bars, and nightclubs to eat, dance, hang out with friends and yes, drink.

Later in the evening some of those people will participate in another American tradition: taking a breathalyzer test after being pulled over by the police. It’s a bad way to end a great evening. That’s why we at Betras, Kopp & Harshman have a hard and fast rule about driving if you’ve had an alcoholic beverage or two or three or four:


Use a designated driver. Call Uber or Lyft. Get a ride from a friend or loved one. But please don’t drink and drive.

Unfortunately, as an in-depth investigation in the New York Times revealed, people who follow the rules are sometimes charged with OVI/DUI because the breathalyzers law enforcement uses to measure the blood alcohol level of people who are suspected of drunk driving aren’t reliable.

Here is the top takeaway from the investigation:

More than 1 million drivers a year are arrested for drunk driving, but the breath test technology supporting many of those arrests can be unreliable. Courts across the country have tossed out more than 50,000 tests in recent years because of problems with specific machines, errors made by police officers and mistakes by labs that set up and maintain the devices.

In the past year, more than 30,000 test results were thrown out by judges in Massachusetts and New Jersey. Other challenges are moving through the courts in states across the country. The machines used in Ohio are among those that have produced inaccurate results.

The Times notes that the machines are sensitive scientific instruments, but in many cases they haven’t been properly calibrated, yielding results that were at times 40 percent too high. Maintaining machines is up to police departments that sometimes have shoddy standards and lack expertise. In some cities, lab officials have used stale or home-brewed chemical solutions that warped results. In Massachusetts, officers used a machine with rats nesting inside.

We encourage you to read the shocking NYT report here:

Man taking field sobriety testAlong with making a strong case that breathalyzer results cannot be trusted, the Times report also features profiles of people whose lives were nearly destroyed because they were wrongly convicted of OVI based on faulty test results. We don’t want Valley residents to suffer the same fate. If you are pulled over by the police or stopped at a DUI checkpoint, you have rights. Here’s how to protect them:

  1. Take advantage of your right to consult an attorney before submitting to a breathalyzer test. Inform the officer or officers who are administering the test that you want to speak to a lawyer before you take it. If you download the free Betraslaw app you will be able to contact a member of our legal team with one tap on the screen of your smartphone. You can download the app by searching for it in the App Store on Google play or by accessing the links we’ve posted at and our Facebook page.
  2. To blow or not to blow? We’re asked this question often. But there is no blanket answer because the circumstances surrounding every case are different. That is why you should contact us before submitting to the test. In general, however, because failure to take the test will result in an automatic one-year suspension of your driver’s license you should take it, especially if you have never been charged with DUI before and you have not been involved in an accident.
  3. If you are charged with DUI/OVI hire experienced legal counsel. OVI is a serious offense that carries steep penalties. Attempting to represent yourself in an OVI case is, in a word, reckless. If you are convicted you will be fined, you could be sentenced to jail, you may lose your driving privileges for a long period of time, and you will be forced to pay incredibly high auto insurance premiums for a number of years. In addition, an OVI conviction could get you fired from your current job and may make it difficult to find another.                                                  Don’t face these consequences on your own. When you retain Betras, Kopp & Harshman to represent you we will be with you at your first hearing, ask the court to allow you to drive as your case works its way through the judicial system, investigate the circumstances surrounding your arrest, provide sound legal advice, and fight to obtain the best possible outcome, including a dismissal or acquittal.
  4. Is it possible to successfully defend a DUI in court? The answer is yes. Our experienced OVI/DUI Defense Team led by Atty. David Betras has represented thousands of clients charged with impaired driving. If we believe you should not have been arrested and charged we will use our expertise and knowledge of the law to have the charges dismissed or win an acquittal in court. That expertise includes challenging the results of breathalyzer tests which, as the NYT report notes, are not always reliable or accurate.

If you or someone you know has been charged with impaired driving, contact the Betras, Kopp & Harshman OVI/DUI Defense Team right away by calling 330-746-8484, 800-457-2889, or by using the Betraslaw app. We’re here to fight for you.

Legally Speaking on WFMJ Today: Fans suing NFL over blown calls

In this episode of Legally Speaking on WFMJ Today, Managing Partner David Betras discusses the lawsuits filed against the NFL by fans distressed over the blown pass interference call that marred the 2018 NFC Championship game between the L.A. Rams and the New Orleans Saints.

You may view the segment on our YouTube channel or on the Betras, Kopp & Harshman Facebook page.

Federal suits have been dismissed, but a state court judge in Louisiana has allowed a suit filed in that state to move forward. David outlines whether or not the plaintiffs have a valid case.

One outgrowth of the bad call: pass interference can now be reviewed. According to a new rule implemented by NFL owners, offensive and defensive pass interference, including non-calls, will now subject to review. Coaches can challenge those calls in the first 28 minutes of each half.

Don’t forget, David and other members of the BKH team discuss the hottest legal topics on  WFMJ Today every Friday at 6:40 A.M. Don’t miss the interesting and informative segments.

School Daze safety tips for drivers, students, and parents

Kids are returning to school across the Buckeye State, so we’re going to be offering school bus safety tips for drivers, kids, and parents throughout the week. Let’s start with a refresher course for drivers…

This infographic below illustrates when drivers must stop for school buses that are picking up or dropping off students. Along with placing kids in danger, violating the law carries stiff penalties. Failure to stop for a school bus adds two points to your license and is punishable by a fine of up to $500. In addition, your license may be suspended for one year.

Along with obeying the law regarding stopped school buses, you should also remember the following:


Finally, here’s a brief refresher course about a school bus’ flashing lights and signs:

Yellow/Amber Flashing Lights – The bus is preparing to stop and pick up or discharge students. Normally turned on approximately 300 feet before bus stops. Motorists should prepare to stop as soon as the bus comes to a complete stop and/or the red flashing lights come on.

Red Flashing Lights – Motorists must stop. Students are exiting or boarding the bus. Stop 10 feet from the front or rear of a school bus and do not proceed until the bus resumes motion. Never pass a school bus that has red flashing lights on, even if the “stop sign” arm is not extended.

Stop Sign – Motorists must stop. Students are exiting or boarding the bus. Stop 10 feet from the front or rear of a school bus and do not proceed until the bus resumes motion. Never pass a school bus with the red stop sign is displayed or the red lights are flashing.

We’ll have additional safety tips tomorrow so please check back and please be on the lookout for kids–their safety is in your hands.

Tragic deaths in Florida/Ohio nursing homes shine spotlight on rising incidence of abuse and neglect.

Use our checklist to find the best facility for your loved one and to determine if they are receiving poor care

 Like people across the country, all of us at Betras, Kopp & Harshman were saddened by the news that nine residents of a nursing home in Hollywood Hills, Florida died after air conditioning at the facility stopped working after Hurricane Irma hit the area.  The patients, who ranged in age from 71 to 99 died from heat and lack of oxygen. More than 140 other residents of the facility had to be hospitalized. Many were in serious condition, some with body temperatures above 106 degrees.

The details of the tragedy, which are emerging slowing, are maddening:

Irma did not knock out power to the home, the air conditioning stopped working because a circuit breaker in a transformer tripped during the storm and was not repaired for three days.

Patients, many of them extremely frail, languished in the heat and humidity for those three days. The nursing home administrators and staff could have brought in portable air conditioners and fans. They didn’t, even as residents began to have difficulty breathing and suffering cardiac arrest.

The hospital directly across the street from the facility had air conditioning. Residents of the nursing home weren’t transferred there until they began to die.

Authorities are just beginning to investigate the incident, but it’s clear that the deaths and injuries could and should have been avoided.

While what happened in Florida was dramatic, the type of abuse and neglect that led to the death of nine people is all too commonplace and occurs in facilities around the nation every day, including here in the Valley.

Our office is currently representing the family of a 70-year-old man who died in a Boardman, Ohio nursing home because he was given the wrong medication and was then ignored by staff when he began to suffer life-threatening problems due to the error. To make matters worse, the staff then tried to cover up their mistake. Three workers at the facility are facing criminal charges for neglecting the resident and tampering with records. We’ve filed suit against the nursing home and are seeking monetary damages to compensate the family and punish the nursing home for allowing the death to occur.

It should come as no surprise that as America’s population ages the number of people who reside in assisted living and nursing facilities has grown rapidly. Unfortunately, incidents of abuse and neglect that lead to serious injury and death are growing just as quickly.  That means family members and friends must constantly be on the lookout for signs that a loved one is being mistreated or that conditions in the facility are not what they should be. And they must be ready to act quickly if they believe a resident is in danger.

The Hollywood Hills tragedy underscores the fact that a facility’s condition can be an accurate indicator of the quality of care being provided to residents. Inspectors investigating the death said the home was not clean or well-supplied and noted that they found peeling paint, chipped and scratched doors and floors, broken furniture, overflowing trash bins, rusty air conditioning vents, soiled bathtubs and cracked or missing bathroom floor tiles.

Those conditions are not only unsafe and illegal, they’re red flags that something is amiss in the facility and that residents are probably in danger—in this case fatally so.

To help avoid tragedies like the ones we’ve described, we urge family members and loved ones to use this checklist developed by the AARP whether you’re selecting a facility or a loved one is already a resident:

  1. How does the food look and taste?
  2. What sounds do you hear?
  3. What does it smell like?
  4. Is the staff overworked?
  5. How do residents spend their afternoons?
  6. How does the staff interact with each other?
  7. Do you see bruising?
  8. How does the home handle a fall?
  9. Are there unexplained bedsores?
  10. Are personal care needs being met?

You can view/download the list with detailed explanations of each item here.

If the answers to these questions for other factors lead you to believe that a resident is suffering take action immediately. Start by notifying the nursing home administrator.  Federal law requires them to report claims of abuse to state agencies which will assign investigators to the case.

You can also report your concerns to state officials. In Ohio, contact the long-term Care Ombudsman at 800-282-1206

or visit

In Pennsylvania call the 24-hour elder abuse hotline at 1-800-490-8505.

In Florida contact the Florida abuse hotline at 1-800-96-ABUSE (800-962-2873).

While the mere report of abuse usually prompts administrators to immediately remove those suspected of mistreating a resident, if the offender can’t be identified right away steps must be taken to remove the resident from harm’s way at once.  If you believe your loved one is in immediate danger, contact the police and arrange for them to be moved to a local hospital until arrangements can be made with another facility.

Once you are sure the resident is safe, you should call the experienced nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys at Betras, Kopp & Harshman to arrange a free consultation. We will carefully listen to your concerns, evaluate and investigate the situation, give you sound advice on how to protect your loved one, and discuss the legal options that are available to you and your family.