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Siegel v. University of Cincinnati College of Medicine

Court of Claims of Ohio

May 1, 2019

FRANCES B. SIEGEL, Admr., etc., et al. Plaintiffs

          Sent to S.C. Reporter 6/28/19

          Holly True Shaver Magistrate



         {¶1} On December 16, 2009, plantiffs, Daniel and Frances Siegel, filed a complaint asserting claims of medical malpractice, wrongful death, and fraud regarding the medical care and treatment that was provided to their daughter, Jessica Siegel, who died at the age of 16 on August 23, 2006. Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint on January 19, 2010, and a second amended complaint on May 28, 2010.

         {¶2} On October 6, 2010, the court issued a stay of proceedings in this matter because of the connected action that was pending in the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas. On May 15, 2013, a magistrate of the court conducted an evidentiary hearing to determine whether Andrew Joel Ringer, M.D., was entitled to civil immunity pursuant to R.C. 2743.02(F) and 9.86. On November 5, 2013, the magistrate issued a decision finding that Dr. Ringer did not act with malicious purpose, in bad faith, or in a wanton or reckless manner during his treatment and care of Jessica and recommended that Dr. Ringer be entitled to immunity. Objections were filed, and the court overruled them and adopted the magistrate's decision and recommendation as its own. The Tenth District Court of Appeals affirmed the court's decision and denied plaintiffs' application for reconsideration in 2015. The Supreme Court of Ohio declined to accept jurisdiction of the appeal and denied a motion for reconsideration in 2016. Defendant's motion to amend its answer was granted in 2016, and defendant's amended answer was filed on December 12, 2016. In July 2018, the court vacated the stay of proceedings.

         {¶3} On October 4, 2018, defendant filed a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Civ.R. 56(B). On October 17, 2018, plaintiff filed a response in opposition. With leave of court, on November 30, 2018, defendant filed a reply. The motion for summary judgment is now before the court for a non-oral hearing pursuant to L.C.C.R. 4(D).

         {¶4} Civ.R. 56(C) states, in part, as follows:

         {¶5} "Summary judgment shall be rendered forthwith if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, written admissions, affidavits, transcripts of evidence, and written stipulations of fact, if any, timely filed in the action, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. No evidence or stipulation may be considered except as stated in this rule. A summary judgment shall not be rendered unless it appears from the evidence or stipulation, and only from the evidence or stipulation, that reasonable minds can come to but one conclusion and that conclusion is adverse to the party against whom the motion for summary judgment is made, that party being entitled to have the evidence or stipulation construed most strongly in the party's favor." See also Gilbert v. Summit Cty., 104 Ohio St.3d 660, 661, 2004-Ohio-7108, citing Temple v. Wean United, Inc., 50 Ohio St.2d 317, 327 (1977).


         {¶6} On August 14, 2006, Jessica Siegel was admitted to Good Samaritan Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio, and came under the care of her attending physician, Andrew Joel Ringer, M.D. (Second Amended Complaint, ¶ 4.) On August 14, 2006, Dr. Ringer performed an embolization procedure upon the vessels in Jessica's head. (Id., ¶ 16.) After the procedure, Jessica experienced complications which led to her being hospitalized longer than expected. (Id., ¶ 17.) Jessica then underwent several other operations and procedures involving her brain and breathing ability. (Id., ¶ 18.) On August 23, 2006, Jessica's heart rate suddenly dropped, a "code blue" was called, and she was pronounced dead at 7:09 p.m. (Id., ¶ 19, 20.)

         {¶7} On the evening of Jessica's death, plaintiff, Daniel Siegel, signed an Autopsy Consent Form, with no restrictions or limitations upon the autopsy. (Id., ¶ 29.) Plaintiffs then left the hospital. (Id., ¶ 30.)

         {¶8} On August 24, 2006, Daniel Beckman, M.D., a pathologist at Good Samaritan Hospital, performed an autopsy on Jessica Siegel. (Id., ¶ 38.) Plaintiffs requested a copy of the autopsy report. The autopsy report was completed on December 8, 2006. (Plaintiffs' Exhibit 16; Exhibit 2 to Beckman's deposition.) Plaintiffs were provided with a copy of the autopsy report approximately three to four months after Jessica's death. (Transcript, p. 115.) Daniel Siegel did not read the autopsy report when he first received it because he was distraught about Jessica's death. (Transcript, p. 137-138.) Eventually, Daniel and Frances Siegel both read the autopsy report by December 2007 or January 2008. (Transcript, p. 155.) Among other findings, the autopsy report states: "Reason for Autopsy: Requested by Physician. Autopsy Restrictions: None. NO HEAD." (Exhibit 2 to Beckman's deposition, p. 1.) In the Clinical Summary, it states: "Autopsy permission was given by parents and a request for muscle tissue for evaluation of malignant hyperthermia was made. There was no permission for removal of the brain." (Id., p. 2.) In the Gross Description portion, it states: "The eyes have been removed for transplantation." (Id.)

         {¶9} On January 17, 2008, Daniel Siegel met with Dr. Ringer to discuss "the cause of [Jessica's] death." (Second amended complaint, ¶ 41-42.) Mary Gulleman, Daniel's sister-in-law, went with Daniel to talk to Dr. Ringer. (Transcript, p. 161.) During the meeting, Daniel and Mary asked Dr. Ringer why the autopsy did not include Jessica's brain, and why Jessica's eyes had been harvested. (Id., p. 161-162.) According to Daniel, during the meeting, Dr. Ringer told him that he did not know why the brain was not included in the autopsy and did not know that her eyes had been taken. (Transcript, p. 118.)

         {¶10} Plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against the Cincinnati Eye Bank in another court. (Second Amended Complaint, ¶ 52.) On December 17, 2008, plaintiffs took the deposition of Amie Smith, R.N., a nurse who had cared for Jessica during her hospital stay, and who had filled out the autopsy form pursuant to Dr. Ringer's instructions. (Plaintiffs Exhibit 15, deposition of Amie Smith, p. 45.) Plaintiffs allege that on the date of Smith's deposition, they first discovered that Dr. Ringer had instructed Smith to limit the autopsy to exclude Jessica's head and brain. (Second amended complaint ¶ 54, 55, Smith's deposition, pgs. 47-52.)[1] Plaintiffs allege that Dr. ...

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