On Friday, December 2, 2022, a 2-million-dollar verdict was returned in favor of The Estate of Megan Clay. The Trial began on November 28, 2022. The estate was represented by Attorney Brian Kopp of Betras, Kopp & Markota.
On March 29, 2018, 20-year-old Megan Clay had her tonsils removed at Salem Regional Hospital. Approximately thirty-six hours later, she experienced significant bleeding. As instructed, Megan’s mother, Christine Clay, called 911. Megan was transported by ambulance to Mercy Health in Boardman, Ohio at approximately 9:30 PM.
When she arrived at the hospital, emergency room staff determined that Ms. Clay had experienced significant bleeding, her blood pressure was low, and she was in shock. Appropriate interventions were taken, the bleeding ceased, and a surgical consultation was sought. Dr. Richard Pearlstein determined that surgical invention was needed, and an operative team was assembled.
Ms. Clay was taken into the operating room at approximately 11:30 PM on March 30, 2018 and anesthesia began administering medications. To repair the bleed, the patient needed to be intubated. Multiple attempts failed due to the presence of clots and swelling from the initial surgery. During one of the attempts, Ms. Clay began bleeding again. While the surgeon was attempting to secure an airway by performing a tracheotomy, Ms. Clay went into cardiac arrest and could not be revived. She was pronounced dead at approximately 12:15 AM. Forensic pathologist Dr. Joseph Felo performed an autopsy and determined that she died of exsanguination (blood loss).
At trial, Attorney Kopp presented Dr. Felo with medical records and deposition testimony that were unavailable when he performed the autopsy. After reviewing the materials, Dr. Felo changed his opinion regarding cause of death and testified that lack of oxygen caused the cardiac arrest. In addition, the Estate presented testimony that the surgeon had between four and six minutes to establish a surgical airway once the bleeding was detected. The Estate argued that his failure to do so constituted medical negligence.
Dr. Pearlstein denied any negligence and presented expert testimony that he had met the standard of care for a surgeon under similar circumstances. He also maintained that the cardiac arrest was a result of blood loss beyond his control. During the trial, the defense called a board-certified anesthesiologist and a board-certified otolaryngologist. Both experts testified that appropriate care was provided. The otolaryngologist also testified that Dr. Pearlstein followed proper protocols and obtained a surgical airway as was evidenced by the autopsy.
The jury had to determine whether Dr. Pearlstein obtained an emergent surgical airway in an appropriate amount of time. The jury began deliberations mid-day on Friday, December 2. At the conclusion of deliberations, the jury determined that Dr. Pearlstein’s actions constituted medical negligence and that this negligence was a cause of Ms. Clay’s death.
“I am the father of seven daughters and have one granddaughter and I cannot imagine for a moment what it is like to walk in the shoes of Jay Clay and his family,” Atty. Kopp said. “Jay, his wife Christine, and Megan’s brothers and sister have suffered a devastating loss. It is always humbling to represent a family that has suffered this kind of loss”.
The trial took place in the Mahoning County Common Pleas Court before Judge Anthony D’Apolito.
For more information, please contact Kimberly Stehura at (330) 746-8484.