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Janus v. Hackensack Hospital

Decided: December 23, 1974.

AGNES M. JANUS AND VALENTINE JANUS, PLAINTIFFS-RESPONDENTS,
v.
HACKENSACK HOSPITAL, JULES C. LADENHEIM AND GEORGE B. JACOBS, DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS



Leonard, Seidman and Bischoff. The opinion of he court was delivered by Leonard, P.J.A.D.

Leonard

In this malpractice case defendants appeal from a judgment following a jury trial in favor of plaintiff Agnes Janus (plaintiff) in the sum of $10,000 and in favor of her husband plaintiff Valentine Janus in the sum of $125,000.

On March 13, 1968 plaintiff fell down a flight of stairs at her home and was taken by ambulance to a hospital where she remained for two days. Thereafter she was transferred to defendant Hackensack Hospital (Hackensack). Thereat she came under the care of defendant doctors, Jules C. Ladenheim and George B. Jacobs, both neurosurgeons. Upon a review of her angiogram Dr. Ladenheim immediately performed a craniotomy, removing and discarding a portion of plaintiff's brain matter. Following surgery plaintiff was placed in the Intensive Care Unit at Hackensack. On March 22 Dr. Jacobs directed that she be transferred to a semiprivate room. Partial side rails, which extended approximately one-third of the length of the bed, were ordered and installed on her bed.

On March 25 plaintiff left her bed and was found at 2:45 A.M. lying on her back in the hallway outside her room in a pool of blood which had seeped from the suture line on her head. Following this fall, a second craniotomy was performed by Dr. Ladenheim.

The liability and damage features of the case were closely contested and each side primarily relied upon medical expert

witnesses. Plaintiff called three physicians and defendant doctors called two other physicians besides testifying themselves.

On the liability issue plaintiff's theory was that defendants were guilty of malpractice in failing to provide full bed rails or Posey restraints*fn1 after she was transferred to a semi-private room on March 22, 1974. Plaintiff's experts, Dr. Robert Tuby and Dr. Max Tesler, were of the opinion that defendants deviated from accepted standards of medical and hospital practice in failing to have one or the other of these restraints placed on plaintiff's bed. On the other hand, defendant doctors and their two experts were of the opinion that such restraints were contraindicated and that the use of partial rails comported with standard medical practice. They further asserted that full bed rails would not prevent a patient from voluntarily getting out of bed.

As to plaintiff's injuries, Dr. Tuby testified that following the first fall and operation plaintiff would have made a full recovery but for the fall of March 25, 1974 which caused her present permanent residual brain damage. To the contrary, defendant doctors and their experts testified that plaintiff's present condition was caused by her original fall in her home and not by the latter hospital fall. Dr. Tesler did not testify as to her injuries.

We consider first defendants' contention that the trial judge committed reversible error in prohibiting defense counsel from cross-examining plaintiff's medical experts as to their experience and background in testifying in medical malpractice cases in the past.

Primarily they complain of the judge's action with regard to the cross-examination of Dr. Tuby. On direct examination this witness, who was licensed to practice medicine in New York in 1930, gave his educational and medical background.

He testified to his experience as a surgeon which terminated in 1959. Since ...


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